Enrollment Count Report for 2017-2018 & Demographic Information For Districts & Charters: The Rise, The Surge, & The Cherry-Picking!

Which districts and charters saw big jumps with student enrollment? Which went down?  What is the state of special education in Delaware?  What key demographic is rising at a fast rate which contributes significantly to the budget woes in our state?  Which charter school, based on their current enrollment, should no longer be considered financially viable and should be shut down?  What is the fastest-growing sub-groups in Delaware?  And which cherry-picking charters continue to not serve certain populations? Continue reading “Enrollment Count Report for 2017-2018 & Demographic Information For Districts & Charters: The Rise, The Surge, & The Cherry-Picking!”

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Charter Schools & ESSA Regulations: “We Are Not The Same”

We strongly oppose the inclusion of this requirement, which is not authorized by the statute. The Department bases this proposal on a desire “to provide transparency.” (No further justification is provided in the NPRM.) We, too, support greater transparency, regarding both charter and non-charter schools, but this requirement would result in the reporting of misleading data. Moreover, the proposed requirement appears to be based on the premise that charter schools should look the “same” as district public schools in close proximity, when by definition charter schools are open enrollment. Lastly, the proposed requirement that is not in the statute, and would not equally apply to all public schools – only charter schools would be included.

The National Association for Public Charter Schools gave a very long public comment for the draft regulations put forth by the United States Department of Education and Secretary John King.  Even they aren’t happy with parts of these regulations.  Many felt the Every Student Succeeds Act gave gifts to the charters, but apparently the charters do not like some of these regulations.

The most important question is not who is enrolled in a charter school; it is whether all students and families who may wish to enroll have the opportunity to enroll – only then is the parent’s choice a meaningful one. The comparison data that the Department is asking for would not reflect this factor because the data would confuse and conflate the decision to enroll with the opportunity to enroll. As such, comparison data may be one indicator of meaningful access but comparison data are not the correct, best or only frame with which to evaluate equity.

I find some of their statements very ironic.  Especially for some charter schools in Delaware where the opportunity to enroll is buried in selective enrollment preferences and factors that lead to very low populations of at-risk students: African-Americans, students with disabilities, and English Language learners.  So much so that the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights in December, 2014.

Like some charters in Delaware, this collection of America’s largest charter school organizations and franchises want to cherry-pick through the regulations to insert additional language in the Every Student Succeeds Act.  This is the one that disturbs me the most:

We recommend that the Department revise proposed section 200.24(d)(2), by adding a new clause (iii) reading as follows:

“(iii) Using funds that it reserves under section 1003(a), directly provide for the creation of new, replicated, or expanded charter schools to serve students enrolled in schools identified for comprehensive support and improvement, and other students in the local community, provided that:

“(A) The SEA has the authority to take such an action under State law or, if the SEA does not have that authority, the SEA has the LEA’s approval to use the funds in this manner; and

“(B) Such charter schools will be established and operated by non-profit entities with a demonstrated record of success (particularly in serving students from communities similar to those that would be served by the new charter schools), which the State shall determine through a rigorous review process.”

This language would be consistent with other provisions of the proposed regulations that support the concept of making charter school options available to students who would otherwise be enrolled in low-performing schools. It would take a different approach than just authorizing conversions, by making it possible for students enrolled in comprehensive support and improvement schools (as well as other students in the neighborhood or local community) to have the opportunity to transfer to a charter school run by a highly successful operator. We emphasize that the language would allow an SEA to use section 1003 funds for this purpose with the approval of the affected LEA, unless state law gives the SEA the authority to take such an action without LEA approval. (It would thus be somewhat parallel to the language currently in section 200.24(d)(2) allowing the SEA, with the LEA’s concurrence to provide school improvement activities through external partners). We strongly recommend that the Department adopt this recommendation.

I have no doubt you strongly recommend the Department inserts this into the law.  We have yet to see, based on equal demographics, that charter schools do better than traditional public school districts.  There are many charter schools that seem to work merely as rigor universities for high achievement on state assessments, but that is not a true barometer for student success which has been proven time and time again.

To read the rest about what the charters want and ALL the organizations and charters that signed this comment, read the entire document below:
 

Newark Charter School Continues Their Discriminatory Social Engineering Enrollment Practices

This school is a piece of work!  Remember last winter when I wrote about how a six-year old girl with disabilities was denied admission in Newark Charter School’s lottery?  In less than 24 hours, parents, legislators, and other citizens swarmed their Head of School, Greg Meece, with emails and phone calls and we got the school to bend and let her in the lottery.  Ultimately, she didn’t make it into the school, but it was still a victory for the parents because she got the right to participate in it.  The reason she wasn’t let in was because the board had changed their admissions policy last fall.  They wouldn’t let anyone who would be above the age of five by a certain date even apply.  For this girl, who has developmental disabilities, she just wasn’t quite ready the year before to enter Kindergarten.  The board got rid of their policy at their May board meeting, but they did introduce a new one: students applying for Kindergarten can only apply once.

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Here is the issue with that.  For students like the girl who had to get people to rally to get her into the lottery, parents of pre-schoolers with a disability don’t always know if their child will be ready for Kindergarten until the spring, when they have a conference with the pre-school.  This is common practice.  If a parent of a child with disabilities may not be aware of this or thinks their child is ready, and they apply to Newark Charter School, they can’t apply again the next year based on this latest discrimination stunt by the wunderbars at Newark Charter School.  This way they can keep those developmental disability kids out of their school.

The board also changed their admissions policy where it relates to “students of employees” at their June 21st board meeting.  Any newly hired employee’s kid gets preference over the rest of the general public kids in the lottery.  I have to wonder what this school’s definition of an employee.  I wonder how much cafeteria staff they hire so they can get certain kids into the school!

Of course, the Delaware Dept. of Education will say this is legal and their board can pick those kind of enrollment preferences (without any needed recommendations or training on discrimination from the DOE).  Our state legislators, most of them, won’t bat an eye.  Especially the guy who might as well be a paid employee of the school for all the cheerleading he does for them!  I’m talking to you Mr. Former Member of the NCS Board now a Senator!  A few of them will complain about it, but in the end, our charter friendly state will rally behind Kendall Massett and her merry band of lobbyists.  And our brilliant Governor Jack would say “I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you.  I was too busy salivating over Newark Charter School’s Smarter Balanced scores.”  Social engineering got those scores Jack, nothing else!  Discrimination is alive and well in Delaware!  Can you imagine what would happen if a school district tried these kind of tricks?  They would have the Office of Civil Rights all over them.  But charter schools… just look the other way.  They have autonomy!

I hope you are all enjoying your summer.  Cherries are really yummy.  I would pick them, but it appears Newark Charter School has the monopoly on that!  Lobster bucket my buttocks!  To get the full scoop on Greg Meece and Newark Charter School’s history, take a look at this!  In the meantime, if you want to develop a new charter school and get the exact mix of students so you can do great on crappy high-stakes standardized tests, just follow the special recipe below:

Newark Charter School Recognized As A “Distinguished Title I School”… But They Aren’t A Title I School

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The National Title I Association recently selected 57 schools in the USA to be “Distinguished Title I Schools”.  That’s awesome, helping out the poor kids.  In Delaware, Newark Charter School got the honor.  And what an honor it is!  But there is just one little catch… Newark Charter School is NOT a Title I school.  To be a Title I school you have to have a certain percentage of low-income students.  Newark Charter School has 7%.  But the catch is because they are located in the Christina School District.  The feds go by the geographic area.  So while Christina has 35% low-income in that geographic area because Newark Charter is “on the map”, they qualify for this award.  The feds use some ridiculous census data to determine this, with our Delaware Department of Education providing the data to them.  To receive the award you have to be really good at closing those achievement gaps based on standardized testing.  And guess who Delaware’s Title I State Leader is?  The recently departed from the Delaware DOE diva of destruction: Penny Schwinn.

Funny how the Smarter Balanced Assessment scores don’t count for anything negative but they sure have been a boon to certain DOE ass-kissers when it comes to “Reward” and “Recognition” schools.  And no one takes the ass-kissing award more than NCS!  And leading that pack is their school leader: Gregory Meece.  This is the guy who went insane when the Smarter Balanced scores came out and “his” school’s scores weren’t included in the article.  He was ticked cause he wanted bragging rights over their great scores.

Newark Charter School has a 5 mile radius for applicants.  Within that 5 mile radius is the 35% low-income student population.  How the hell do you have a “random” lottery, year after year, with a huge wait list, and only wind up with 1/5th of that population?  “Random” indeed…  This award means about as much as the stupid “Blue Ribbon Award” as well (which NCS has also received back in 2010).  Another Delaware school, Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, also in the Christina School District, was given the “Distinguished Title I” school as well.  They have 20% low-income.  It’s one thing for Newark Charter School to cherry-pick their way to the top, but quite another to get an award for convoluted data that makes absolutely no sense.  But of course the praise will be thrown at them in this never-ending saga of charter love in Delaware.

cherrypicking

First State Montessori Academy Enrollment Preference Arguments Heat Up

 

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On Saturday, I published an article concerning First State Montessori Academy’s major modification request to increase their enrollment and add middle school grades.  To say this has been controversial would be an understatement.  Public Comment, whether it was on this blog or through the official public comment channel on the DOE Charter School Office website.  Last night, the Public Hearing for First State Montessori’s major modification request was held.  When the transcript from the hearing becomes available I will put it up here.

At their December 2nd board meeting, First State Montessori talked about forming a committee to explore the option of increasing their enrollment and adding extra grades.  The board passed a motion to increase their enrollment by 5-15%.  School leader Courtney Fox said they would have to get a major modification request to the DOE by 12/31/15.  What is very interesting here is the school leader’s mention of the Delaware Met building next to them, at 920 N. French St.  While she doesn’t come out and say it, it is obvious the school is assuming Delaware Met would be closed.  The board doesn’t even mention the possibility of adding middle school grades at this point in time either, only adding more Kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms.  As well, Fox, who is NOT a member of the board, announces a future meeting to discuss the possibility of the modification request and increasing their enrollment.  Why did the board not vote on this?  Does Fox run the board as well as the school?

On December 19th, an agenda for a 12/28/15 board meeting was put up on their website.  It indicated their would be an update on the Exploring Expansion Committee.  One would assume the board voted at that meeting on their major modification request and to add middle school grades.  By this time, the announcement by the State Board of Education over Del Met’s closure was old news.  Three days after Christmas is a very odd time to have a board meeting.  While the board did do the right thing in putting up the agenda at least a week prior to the meeting, how much ability was there for members of the public to know about this meeting and potentially weigh in on the topic?  On the flip side, the State Board voted on the charter revocation for Del Met on 12/16 so the school had to see what would happen with that decision before moving forward.  But I still find it ironic there is no definitive plan set in motion earlier in December to add middle school grades to the school and all of a sudden it materializes in their major modification request submitted on 12/30/15.

This is merely conjecture on my part, but we already know the DOE suggested DAPSS submit a major modification request instead of a minor modification request.  How much input should the DOE have in suggesting modification requests to Delaware charter schools?  And what of Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network who seems to be a intermediary between charter schools and the Delaware DOE?  I will be very upfront and say something really doesn’t smell right here.  And with all these modification requests coming from charter schools how can we be sure this could not somehow influence the State Board of Education’s vote on the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan?

In the meantime, check out what folks had to say about this hot topic:

“J” said:

Kevin, the interest in Montessori thing is as easy as taking a tour or even talking for a moment to someone from the school in the community. They are at the expo and other events. Have held info sessions at local libraries, etc. It’s easy. The Montessori model is very different. There are mixed grade classrooms, no traditional desks, no traditional homework packets. Very different and something that families and students should be aware of. “Interest” in this case is awareness of the differences, that’s all.
Ask about it – learn about it. Heck, e mail me. This doesn’t cherry pick anything.

Eve Buckley said:

The questions raised in the final comment have been asked since FSMA opened. According to DOE’s “school profiles” for this school year, FSMA students are 65% white and 8% low-income. The two districts surrounding it are 44% white, 35% low-income (Red Clay) and 32% white, 41% low-income (Christina); those figures include suburban regions with less poverty than the city. So FSMA could clearly be doing more to attract and retain a student population more reflective of its surrounding communities (or even of the countywide student population). No pressure in that direction from its authorizer?
Note that Cab and Newark Charter, also very popular “choice” options, also have low-income % around 8. That seems to be the sweet spot for appealing to middle class public school consumers in the area (if you can’t achieve the 2% attained via testing by CSW).

Mike O said:

For families who “choose not to apply” to charters such as NCS or Montessori, I am sure many don’t even realize those are public schools their child is eligible for. Which is how you get to 8% low income without testing

jane s said:

it’s especially sad to see this happening at an elementary school. the goal should be to give children the best start possible regardless of their background. this could be a place that helps children enter middle school and high school on equal ground, but instead it’s just adding to the divide. nothing will change if people don’t speak out.

Eve Buckley said:

I agree! It is really sad–waste of an opportunity.

jenn said:

hi. i think the practices of fsma are fair and comprehensive. interest becomes a priority only because the montessori method is not of interest to everyone, much like a dual-language school like aspira is not of high-priority to many families. if you are to apply to fsma, because it’s a school in your neighborhood, without carrying any interest in montessori principles, then how detrimental will that student be in the classroom? (in terms of congruence, not as a human!) i do not know why the five-mile radius is not ‘more of a priority’, but i believe the admissions process does indeed actively reach out to all areas throughout delaware. it just depends on who researches montessori/has experience with it, and who thinks it is an important addition to the learning process. shown by the small number of montessori schools across the country, and the small classroom size within those schools, one can only surmise that is it not a hot topic among majority of families in delaware or beyond, regardleses of SES, ethnicity or neighborhood. we are ultimately creatures of comfort, and stick to the path most traveled. a school like this, or any other magnet, charter, votech, etc has enrollment because of interest and the desire to trek the brambly, gravel path. please see the good nature of such schools. i know it doesn’t sell like trash-talking does, but in a society deprived of an identity, the journey to recreating one for delaware schools could stand to be a lot less hotheaded. thank you.

John Young said:

No idea who Jenn is, but maybe she should join that sorry CSAC team which appears to olnly authorize losing propositions in DE Charterland. Bet it would be a great fit for a truly dysfunctional organization.

Natalie Ganc said:

I think that a stipulation should be put on all of these charter schools claiming that their school panders to their geographical radius: They should have to go pound-the-pavement (pamphlet in hand) to educate their neighbors to inform them of all of the benefits their child will receive if they choose to enroll. I say this, because I am quite certain that the folks living in the high-poverty areas have no idea what some charter schools are all about.

And from the official public comment section on the DOE website:

 

What Is Wrong With So Many Delaware Charter Schools?

I’ve been racking my brain on this for a long time now.  If it isn’t financial abuse, it’s bad enrollment preferences.  If it isn’t the DOE praising certain charter schools, it is a lack of due process.

I think what it comes down to is arrogance.  We see that in traditional school districts as well, but what makes it so pronounced with the charters?  Charters are smaller.  When they make noise, everyone hears it or points it out.  Nothing gets some Delawareans pissed off more than seeing some charters blatantly flaunting their admissions process.  For others, it is the amount of money being wasted by school leaders and not making it to the classroom.  But when a charter has issues, hearing or seeing the leaders defend problems that are so inherently wrong makes them look rather foolish.

Just about every charter school in Delaware, since I started this blog, had one of the above issues I mentioned since I started this blog back in June of 2014.  Three charters have shut down, with another going down at the end of this year.  When things go down at a charter, we often see the bulk of the parents defending the school as if they can do no wrong.  Is it that they are blind to the facts or is the option of sending their child to a traditional school district so frightening for parents they are willing to overlook these infractions?

There are the true horror stories like Delaware Met and possibly Delaware Design-Lab High School.  Brand new charters that don’t seem to have a clue how to run a school.  And as we’ve seen time and time again, the DOE, with rare exceptions, doesn’t do anything until after that Wednesday in January when the choice window closes.  We find out what they knew all this time, and the DOE gets away with it every single time.

What are we teaching our children?  That it’s okay to send the more fortunate and the more knowledgeable to the “better” schools?  That it doesn’t matter if you go to a school that is 98% African-American?  That if you are “counseled out” of a charter it’s okay to be out of the system for over a month?  Behind all of this is the shadow of standardized test scores.  For all Delaware schools, including charters, this is the measurement over which the DOE’s judgment is severe.  Many think the DOE is too charter friendly, but when there are issues, the DOE comes down on them like white on rice.  Which is good, but had the DOE acted sooner in many of these situations things wouldn’t get as bad.

There are no easy answers or solutions to these issues.  What we need is a culture change when it comes to charters.  In the meantime, the war, yes, the war, continues.  It bubbles over into every aspect of education in our state in one form or another.

State Rep. Mike Ramone Is Going To Ignite An All-Out Charter-District War With House Bill 261

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Delaware State Representative Mike Ramone’s House Bill 261 may cause even more controversy than the war of the charter school audit bills!  Ramone’s proposed legislation would protect charter schools if they don’t get timely records from school districts when an expelled student or a student who was placed in an alternative school setting for disciplinary reasons choices into a Delaware charter school.  The bill would make it so the local school district would have to pick up any costs for that student.  This bill is assuredly in response to what happened at Delaware Met.  Many students who went to the school were alleged to have been either expelled or came from an alternative school setting.

I see red flags all over this bill.  I am already picturing charters not taking these students based on this information.  The key word in this legislation is “applies”.  How would a local school district know when a student applies to a charter?  Of course it is the burden of the charter to request that information.  It would be like applying for a new job and my old job would be responsible for proactively sending my references to the new job, prior to my even being accepted at the new job.  Using the word “burden” in the synopsis of this bill makes it look like “Oh, the poor charters. The problems they have with those bothersome districts.”

Ramone, you are letting your charter bias shine through with this bill.  This could put the stigmatism of “cherry-picking” to a whole new level!  I understand the intent here, but this is NOT the way to do it.  As well, the proof is in the pudding on whether or not records are sent.  This is also a two-way street.  Local districts do not always get records from charters in the allotted time period.  If you want to further the tensions between districts and charters, this is a great way to go about it.  I hope this bill dies a quick and sudden death in the House Education Committee…

Statewide Review Of Education Opportunities Highlights Charter School Cherry-Picking & Creaming

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Among the other controversial and disturbing events at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting yesterday, there was a presentation by the Public Consulting Group (PCG) on the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities (SREO) for Delaware Schools.  This was a review requested by Governor Jack Markell last March to figure out which schools are getting it right.  When it comes right down to it, this report was a series of graphs showing demographics of school districts and charters and which schools have things like AP classes and Career-Technical education opportunities.  All of this is based in 2014-2015 data.  This report cost Delaware taxpayers $70,000.00.

Last September, I worked with Delaware Liberal and Delaware First State in creating graphs of the Smarter Balanced Assessment results and how low-income, minorities, and students with disabilities fared poorly on the controversial test.  It also showed how schools with low populations of these sub-groups did really good on the test.

The below PCG reports clearly show the divide in Delaware, especially with certain charters in our state: Charter School of Wilmington, Newark Charter School, Delaware Military Academy, Odyssey Charter School, and Sussex Academy.  The result: complete chaos in Delaware.  While the effect of this is not as clearly felt in Kent County, it has created havoc in Wilmington and lower Sussex County.  If anyone actually believes the lotteries in these schools are random and fair, take a close look at the graphs in these reports.  They select, hand-pick and cherry-pick.  They cream from the top applicants.  And many charters in our state weed out the “bad” students by using their “counseling out” technique.  To some extent, the magnet schools in Red Clay and Indian River do this as well.

The reports give a well-crafted illusion that we have too many schools in Delaware.  This foregone conclusion is, in my opinion, trying to please the charter supporters in our state.  It talks about high demand and wait lists at certain charters and indicates there are too many “empty seats” in Delaware traditional schools.  Do not be fooled by this illusion.  Yes, some charters are in high demand because of the illusions cast by the State and the charter community on their perceived success based on standardized test scores.  I’m going to call this the “smart flight” as many parents pulled their kids out of traditional and even private schools over the past twenty years and sent their kids to charters.  This resulted in funds pouring out of the traditional districts while the state was slowly decreasing the amount they gave schools in the state.  This increased the amount of local dollars the districts had to use to run their schools.   Meanwhile, Common Core, Race To The Top, DSPT, DCAS, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment wormed their way into our lives causing even more funding to be siphoned from the classroom.  All of this created a perfect storm in Delaware culminating into a hurricane of inequity, discrimination, and segregation.  While Governor Markell did not influence these events twenty years ago, he certainly has been a major part of it for well over ten years, even before he became Governor.

This report could be read in many ways, but if I were reading as an outside observer looking into Delaware, I would be highly concerned.  We have charters with hardly any African-Americans and students with disabilities.  We have other charters with very high populations of the two.  We have a Department of Education, State Board of Education, and a General Assembly who allowed this to happen by falling asleep at the wheel.  We have the highly controversial Wilmington Education Improvement Commission attempting to redraw Wilmington school districts without guaranteed funding to support it.  We have companies like Rodel, the Longwood Foundation, and the Welfare Foundation pouring money into charters and influencing events behind the scenes and right in our faces.  We have key people in our state who are part of national education cabals molding education policy with the public oblivious to all of this.  We have outside companies coming into our state, taking our money, and creating reports on things we either already know or creating illusions designed to brainwash the populace.  This is Delaware education.

Odyssey Charter School And Other “Successful” Charters Want Money To Grow

Matthew Albright with the Delaware News Journal wrote an article today about Delaware charters, and centered on Odyssey Charter School.  Delaware charter schools face obstacles to growth is the name of the article.  I think it’s funny, because many disadvantaged students face obstacles to getting into these “dream” charters like Odyssey, Charter School of Wilmington, Newark Charter School and Sussex Academy.  Their student populations always have less African-Americans, students with disabilities and low-income students than those around them.  And their cheerleaders always say the same thing: “Their lotteries determine who gets in.”  Yeah, and I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.

School leaders and parents at successful Delaware charter schools say the state can and should do more to help them grow.  While understanding that the Department of Education has to crack down on charters showing evidence of financial mismanagement or a failure to provide high quality education, parents and educators wonder: If a school has top test scores, deep community connections and parents clamoring for expansion, can’t the state help?

Did Publius from Kilroy’s Delaware write this article?  If a charter school has “top test scores”, which doesn’t mean squat to me because I don’t value any standardized test score as a true measurement of any school, than they have trimmed the fat and picked the better students and essentially recruited (stolen) them from their local districts.

Albright talks about Odyssey’s latest money problems, something I wrote about six days ago.  But of course, Albright, being a reporter for a somewhat major metropolitan newspaper would get more information.  I’m just a blogger!  Should Odyssey get more money from the state?  Hell no!  Charters wanted to have it their way, but when they can’t get things their way, they call the State.  Enough.  They get more financial perks from non-profits and loop-holes in the budget to make up for what they don’t get from the state.

Charter skeptics maintain that the state shouldn’t spend a cent more on charters while traditional school districts cry out for more resources to serve at-risk students. They argue charters don’t serve enough of the kids who need the state’s help the most, and every dollar that goes to a charter is a dollar less for districts charged with that mission.

Damn straight!  Some schools are literally falling apart, and Odyssey and other charters want more?  After they have siphoned money and students away from their local districts?  Sorry, you missed the boat.  Why don’t they call the Longwood Foundation?  They are always giving away money to charters.  Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko got the Albright call and didn’t mince words:

“Until you can prove to me, and I mean show me proof on a piece of paper, that these schools are taking in the same kind of students as our districts and doing a better job, then maybe we have a different discussion,” Kowalko said. “Until then, it is unconscionable for us to be sending additional taxpayer dollars to them.”

Why would we give more money to a school that is facing this on their latest financial framework with the DOE:

The problems reported include deficits, high debt-to-asset ratios, low cash reserves and negative cash flow over the past three years.

So we give them a get out of jail free card while Christina bleeds?  I don’t see the state rushing to help them.  And the article even has Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network joining the fray!  I’m not sure when she finally figured out there were other schools in Delaware aside from charters, but I’m not sure I buy what she wrote:

“If any public school, not just a charter, is doing great things for kids, we should be enabling them to do more of it,” Massett said. “Odyssey is a great example of that.”

The timing on this is impeccable.  The DOE and Donna Johnson will be presenting to the State Board on the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities.  This is the strategy to “determine how charters operate in Delaware” along with all the other great programs our schools offer.  Another US DOE non-regulatory non-Congressionally approved “suggestion”.

During the last legislative session, lawmakers approved a moratorium on new charters until June of 2018, or until the state finishes a comprehensive strategic plan that would address how charters fit into the state’s overall public education system.

If anyone really thinks there will be a moratorium on charters until 2018, they are smoking something funny.  Once the State Board celebrates Donna and the DOE’s hard work and does their high-five party, the charter applications will flow.

DOE Ignores Cherry-Picking In Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities Report To State Board

The Executive Director of the State Board of Education, Donna Johnson and Susan Haberstroh, in charge of Policy and External Affairs with the Delaware Department of Education, just presented a review of the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities to the Delaware State Board of Education.  The report fails to mention all the schools in Delaware that have selective enrollment practices that results in not all students given the same educational opportunities.  Instead, they are focusing on some of the schools that practice this logic.  This review stemmed from House Bill 56, signed by Governor Markell earlier this year.  That legislation also put a pause on new charter school applications until this review was done.  Public Consulting Group is the vendor for this initiative.

Poverty Matters! Smarter Balanced Impact: The Sussex Academy Effect

Sussex Academy, the only Delaware charter school in Sussex County, was one of the best Smarter Balanced scoring schools in the entire county.  This is not an accident, nor is it an indication they are the “best” school in the county.  Like the Charter School of Wilmington, Sussex Academy was named in the ACLU lawsuit against the State of Delaware last December for discrimination against minority and special needs students.  Or what the blogosphere collectively calls “cherry-picking”.  The school is smack dab in the middle of Sussex County.

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On the Delaware Department of Education school profiles part of their website, it shows the school’s demographics.  Sussex County has a very large population of Hispanics.  Western Sussex County is considered one of the poorest sections of the state and that trend is expected to increase over time.

SussexAcademyProfile

In previous articles, this blog and Delaware Liberal have focused on New Castle County, Capital School District, and all the Delaware charters.  Our graphs have shown the effect low-income and poverty has on Smarter Balanced performance.  Unfortunately, this trend continues in Sussex County as seen below. Since Sussex Academy is primarily a middle school (although their high school is increasing, with 9th grade added two years ago, 10th grade last year, and 11th grade this year), I ran the graph with just the middle schools surrounding the school.  Sussex Academy appears to be siphoning away the “better” students from their surrounding districts.

SussexCountyPLISBAC

To put this in perspective, Laurel Intermediate School is currently a Priority School in Delaware, which slipped under the radar of most bloggers until recently.  Meanwhile, Sussex Academy is praised by Governor Markell and the Delaware DOE as a great success.  All schools would be considered awesome if they were allowed to do what Sussex Academy does with their application process and mythical “lottery”.  Like Charter School of Wilmington and Newark Charter School to some extent, the veil has been lifted and these schools are not superior schools.  They have merely placed themselves on that stage by picking who they want, and more importantly, who they don’t want.

While their Hispanic population seems high, 9.6%, compared to many of the other schools, it is very low.  Sussex Academy is in Georgetown, the same as Georgetown Middle School.  Watch what happens…

SussexHispanic

In theory then, does the same hold true for the percentage of English Language Learners in Sussex County?  Not exactly.  Even though a few schools have less Hispanic students, Sussex Academy has the lowest percentage of English Language Learners.

SussexELL

How does Sussex Academy compare to the other schools with special education?  I’m sure you know the answer already, but there is a very wide margin between the school and the others.

SussexSpecEd

In fact, they are in the low single-digits compared to the schools surrounding them.  When I see this, it always reminds me of the scene in Forrest Gump, when young Forrest tries to find a seat on the bus and the one kids says to him “Can’t sit here.”  This is what Sussex Academy does with their blatant discrimination against low-income students, Hispanics, and students with disabilities.  But I’m sure they will be recognized as a “reward” or “recognition” school for their exemplary performance…

Delaware School Districts, Charter Schools and Vo-Techs Special Education Ratings By The Delaware DOE. State Ratings By The US DOE.

The Delaware Department of Education recently sent letters to every single school district, vocational district, and each charter schools with their special education rating based on compliance indicators with the United States Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs.  There are four designations: meets requirements, needs assistance, needs intervention, and substantially needs intervention.  I will be delving into more of this in GREAT detail, as I don’t agree with much of this.  This is based on compliance from fiscal year 2013, so any schools that opened in FY2014 or FY2015 are not part of these ratings.  But for now, please see what the district ratings are:

Traditional School Districts

Appoquinimink: Needs Assistance

Brandywine: Needs Intervention

Caesar Rodney: Needs Intervention

Cape Henlopen: Meets Requirements

Christina: Needs Intervention

Colonial: Needs Assistance

Delmar: Needs Intervention

Indian River: Meets Requirements

Lake Forest: Needs Assistance

Laurel: Needs Intervention

Milford: Meets Requirements

Red Clay Consolidated: Needs Intervention

Seaford: Needs Intervention

Smyrna: Needs Assistance

Woodbridge: Needs Intervention

Vocational Districts

New Castle County Vo-Tech: Meets Requirements

Polytech: Needs Assistance

Sussex Tech: Meets Requirements

Charter Schools

Academy of Dover: Needs Assistance

Campus Community: Needs Assistance

Charter School of Wilmington: Meets Requirements

DE Academy of Public Safety & Security: Meets Requirements

DE College Prep: Meets Requirements

DE Military Academy: Meets Requirements

East Side Charter: Needs Intervention

Family Foundations Academy: Meets Requirements

Gateway Lab School: Needs Intervention

Kuumba Academy: Needs Assistance

Las Americas ASPIRA Academy: Needs Assistance

MOT Charter School: Needs Assistance

*Moyer: Needs Intervention

Newark Charter School: Meets Requirements

Odyssey Charter School: Meets Requirements

Positive Outcomes: Needs Intervention

Prestige Academy: Needs Intervention

Providence Creek Academy: Needs Assistance

*Reach Academy for Girls: Needs Assistance

Sussex Academy: Meets Requirements

Thomas Edison Charter: Needs Assistance

*means school is now closed as of 6/30/15

There you have it, all the districts, charters, and vo-techs in Delaware.  Anyone with a basic knowledge of Delaware can see the obvious flaws with this rating system.  Most of the districts and charters who “need intervention” have the greatest populations of special education students, as well as the highest number of minorities and low-income populations.  This system is completely unfair to any parent looking for potential school choices for their special needs child.  Or even to those parents with a “regular” student, who may think the school is not a right fit for their child because of perceived special education issues.

These ratings also do not take into account IEP denials at all.  Many charters have flat-out refused entrance to children with IEPs, despite numerous warnings by the state and the federal government, as well as civil rights groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union.  Charters have also been widely known to practice “counseling out”, where students with IEPs are either kicked out or pushed out through repeated suspensions or strong suggestions to parents how they “can’t service your child” or “we don’t have the resources”.

For a school like Charter School of Wilmington to “meet requirements” when they have a literal handful of IEPs there, while a school like Eastside who has numerous IEPs to need intervention is not a fair and accurate comparison.

One other important factor is none of these ratings take into account the continuous and growing number of special education lawsuits in our state.  The feds ratings are based on complaints, mediations (with the state) and due process hearings.  There are several problems with this.  First off, there hasn’t been a due process hearing in Delaware in over two years.  The last hearing was in April of 2013, and out of the 25 due process hearings since 2006, only two were against charter schools.  Anyone with a basic knowledge of Delaware Online Checkbook can see the MILLIONS of dollars going out in special education lawsuits.  When I asked MaryAnn Mieczkowski, the Director at the Exceptional Children Resources Group at the DOE about this conundrum last summer, she stood by the due process system as being “more than fair.”  Many of the schools that “meet requirements” have been sued and more than once.  But the DOE will never report that data…

Second, the complaints are heard by “hearing officers” who are paid by the Delaware Department of Education.  One such hearing officer is the President of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens, Robert Overmiller.  He was paid $10,000 this year alone to rule on these special education complaints.  The Director of the Exceptional Citizens Resource Group at the DOE sits on the very same group.  Overmiller is also paid by the GACEC.  The GACEC issues opinions on matters such as the recent and growing opt-out movement.  Many were shocked to see the GACEC dead set against opt-out and House Bill 50.  But now we know about conflicts of interest where the state Department pays the other state group’s Presidents, and the two side on issues of legislative importance.  As well, the GACEC gives opinions on State Board of Education regulations.  This is the problem in Delaware with conflicts of interest.  They aren’t transparent until someone happens to stumble upon them.

There is so much more to all of this, and I will be writing a lot about it in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can read each letter sent to these districts, vo-techs and charters here: District And Charter Reports

You can also see each state’s ratings below, in the below document released by the US DOE, which is also very misleading, because it rates Delaware as “needing assistance” in the Part B determinations for one year, and “meets requirements in Part C, but doesn’t even touch on the fact they were “needing intervention” the past two years, which makes Delaware look better on a long-term basis when that is not the case.

Watch Grown Men in Delaware Justify Discrimination! Enrollment Preference Task Force Meeting Tomorrow Night!

The ninth meeting of the Delaware Enrollment Preference Task Force will happen tomorrow night at the Buena Vista Conference Center in New Castle, from 6:30 to 8:30pm.  Special guest Alex Medler with the National Association of Charter School Authorizers will give a presentation.

Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams and Delaware State Senator Nicole Poore lead this group of charter school, vocational and public school district spokespersons.

I went to the December meeting.  It’s fun watching intelligent, grown men actually try to justify the discriminatory practices their schools use to “attract” students.  Even scarier is how much people buy the lines they sell!  Williams is actually very much against these types of things, so she runs a good show.  Things are coming to a head very soon with these types of practices, so this meeting should be interesting.

Why Am I Always Picking On Delaware Charter Schools?

The obvious answer to my title would be “because it’s easy”.  It’s not like I create these stories.  They do it themselves.  I just bring them to light for all of Delaware to see.  Take Prestige Academy, and their board meeting at a tavern where they didn’t have a quorum and voted on stuff anyways.  I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.  I knew Jack Perry was “resigning”, so I thought I would see what their board minutes say.  I wasn’t looking for anything sinister.  By the time I got to their board minutes, and I saw what I saw, it was just another example of a Delaware charter school doing whatever the hell they want, regardless of the law.

I get a great deal of flack on Kilroy’s Delaware in the comments section when I say something negative about charters.  There’s one guy named Publius.  You would think the charters could no wrong, and because the ability for “choice” is out there, it is the charters God-given right for any type of pre-assessment before a prospective student is selected.  Another guy, named lastDEconservative, will side with Publius every chance he gets.  They have their opinion, and I have mine.  But because I want to try to help people, I have a big head and I won’t agree with anyone’s opinion but my own.  Or so they say.  I think they are hoping I will just go away, but that just encourages me to fight harder. Continue reading “Why Am I Always Picking On Delaware Charter Schools?”