As part of a Freedom of Information Act request, the Delaware Department of Education named several new schools that would have become Priority or Focus Schools in an email to the United States Department of Education if the Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF) went into full effect this year. It won’t, but it gives a very good sign of the entire purpose of this “school report card” scheme: more inner-city schools getting false labels and “turnaround status” based on high-stakes standardized test scores. One school, far away from Wilmington, which was highly praised by Governor Markell and the DOE a couple of years ago for their reduction of proficiency gaps would have been a Focus School this year because of the increase in their proficiency gap. Another school that would have become a priority school is already slated to close at the end of this year. Again, I will stress these schools (aside from the ones with an asterisk) have not been named but would have been if the DSSF went into effect this year.
Wow! That is a lot of information from the former Director of Accountability at the Delaware DOE! This was part of the Delaware DOE’s ESEA waiver request they sent to the US DOE at the end of November last year. The State Board had just approved the participation rate penalty in the DSSF at their November meeting. What wasn’t revealed was this list of schools that would have been named Focus or Priority…
Four of the schools labeled as Priority are already Priority Schools. I find it interesting the other two Red Clay Priority Schools are not on this list. The Christina School District would have two more Priority Schools based on their DSSF score. Delaware College Prep did not have their charter renewed and will close their doors forever at the end of this school year.
Booker T. Washington Elementary School? What? Isn’t this the same school Governor Markell touted and praised for closing the gaps in 2014 and 2015? Didn’t Delaware Today just do a big article about the school’s big turnaround? I have to wonder if Capital School District is aware this school would have been punished again and put back in turnaround status.
Brandywine School District (district code 31) already had three designated Focus Schools this year, but four more would have joined that elite group. Half of Delaware’s Focus Schools would have existed in the Brandywine School District! Red Clay would have seen a middle school join while Christina would have another two schools in turnaround status. Colonial and Delmar both would join the “Focus School Group” based on their proficiency gaps.
When you compare these schools with charter schools based on the actual Smarter Balanced scores last year, the fatal flaw in the Delaware School Success Framework becomes very clear. Many charters such as EastSide, Family Foundations, Prestige Academy and Thomas Edison had lower Smarter Balanced scores than some of the priority and focus schools above. But because the DSSF is based not just on the overall scores but also the “growth to proficiency”, the system is rigged to punish schools in traditional school districts. Why? Because the Delaware DOE never did what they said they were going to do in their ESEA waiver application:
So even though they named Delaware College Prep as a priority school in their “DSSF” scenario, it wouldn’t happen because to this date the DOE has not submitted any regulations indicating what is in the picture above. As well, this would account for Focus Schools as well, as seen here:
And what is that Focus School Criteria?
But here is where things get confusing:
The above states no new Focus or Priority schools will be named in the next two years. But they will name Reward and Recognition schools. So that’s good, right? Wrong. The whole ballgame changes on August 1st, 2016. That is when the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) goes into effect. States will be given a “planning and implementation year” so to speak. But the key will be in the regulations issued in the coming months. That is where ALL OF THIS will come into play. The Delaware DOE was probably about 95% certain the ESSA would pass at the time of this ESEA Waiver application on November 19th, 2015. So what does this mean?
These are my predictions: The regulations coming out of ESSA will give the states the authority to determine “turnaround” schools based on US DOE “guidance”. The Delaware DOE will take full advantage of this to keep the plans now in place but also to make things go into effect in the 2016-2017 school year. Or possibly, they will stall this until the 2017-2018 school year. They will support this with a re-designed Regulation 103 in Delaware based on the US DOE regulations. If the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) redistricting plan passes the General Assembly (which I now think will happen), Red Clay will have a lot of priority and focus schools. And more to be named based on the Delaware School Success Framework and how they calculate things. Most of them are schools in the city limits of Wilmington. Around 2019 or 2020, the DOE will pounce on these schools with hardcore priority school MOUs. If you thought the MOUs in 2014 were stringent, these will be even tougher for the Red Clay Board of Education to work around. By this time, based on the Smarter Balanced scores (or whatever replaces it), all the Wilmington Red Clay schools will be in Priority School status. Red Clay won’t close all the schools, so they will be forced to turn them over to the DOE, become charter schools, or be put into a management organization. And that, my friends, is when we see Wilmington become an all-charter school district. Over time this will engulf the Brandywine, Christina, Colonial, and Red Clay Consolidated School Districts. Upper New Castle County will become ALL charter.
Think about the real estate deals that will come out of that. Think about the collective bargaining rights that are marginalized when a school goes into priority school status. Think about competency-based education and personalized learning and career pathways initiatives already in place in Delaware and other states. Think about the huge amount of schools in the country that have already converted to charters, and the vast amounts of money hedge fund managers make off charters. Think about all the foundations and non-profits that support charters. Think about the fact that WEIC had to happen for all of this to come to fruition. Think about how organizations like Teach For America and the Relay Graduate School for Education stand to benefit immensely from a scenario where teachers are no longer teachers but glorified moderators in a personalized learning environment. Think about the long con and how this would eventually trickle down the state, past the canal, all the way down to Sussex County over the long run. Think about all the tax break legislation that has gone through in Delaware that Markell has signed so fast. There could be a lot of new business coming to Delaware. But none of it will be good for students.
This is the game plan. The one that Delaware Governor Jack Markell, the Rodel Foundation, and the Delaware Business Roundtable fervently support. You won’t find any memos or emails about this. You won’t find any hard or definitive proof either. It will just happen. And if you think John Carney will save the day as the new Governor of Delaware, think again…
Guess what the one mechanism is that stops all of this?
If the state doesn’t have the data needed to carry out all of this, they can’t very well use the results to force all these changes. This is why Governor Markell and the DOE and Rodel and all the organizations, foundations, and non-profits are against opt out. Opt Out is the game-changer that disrupts ALL their plans.