Delaware Competency-Based Education, Part 3: Union? We Don’t Need Your Stinkin’ Union!

How did the Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition get around the Delaware State Education Association?

The Rodel Foundation, Delaware DOE, and the Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition had a meeting coming up on November 20th, 2014.  In the meantime, things were heating up with the priority schools, especially a looming showdown between the Christina School District and the Delaware DOE.  Many people felt no matter what Christina or Red Clay did, the DOE was going to take the six schools and convert them to charter schools.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium was getting ready to release the cut scores on the upcoming high-stakes test based on the field tests administered earlier that Spring.  The Delaware DOE was starting their town halls for their “school report card”.  They had released surveys to the public with ridiculous things like stop lights for grades (this eventually became the Delaware School Success Framework).  The IEP Task Force was in full swing and they were actively working on their final draft.  Unbeknownst to most, former Rodel employee Matthew Korobkin began his job in the Secretary of Education’s office at the DOE to begin work on the Special Education Strategic Plan.  This blogger had started doing some serious digging into Rodel after what I found out at the end of October of 2014.  The General Election came and went.  Matt Denn won the Delaware Attorney General slot in a landslide.  Two new state reps would have a dramatic effect on education in the General Assembly in the next year.

On November 19th, 2014, I released my mammoth Rodel article.  Knowing this little group was meeting in back-door meetings would have been good to know when I was writing that article.  It would have filled in some holes.  From what I heard from a few people, this article really rattled Rodel CEO Paul Herdman.  I know he was upset with me for daring to allege that Rodel would ever make money from hedge funds and somehow profit off Delaware education.  But in any event, the CBL Guiding Coalition was about to meet…

guiding-coalition-2nd-meeting

I tried the link referenced in the email to an Ed Week article, but the link no longer exists.  I have no doubt it reference some personalized learning school and how great it was.  When you look at the above email, note the word barriers.  If competency-based learning is supposed to be so great, why would there be any barriers?  At this point, it is probably a good idea to let folks know who was on both the Core and Advisory groups for this.

cbladvisorygroup

cblcoregroup

In terms of involvement, I don’t know if every single person participated in this CBL Guiding Coalition that was now divided into two groups. I do know, for example, that Yvonne Johnson with the Delaware PTA did not go to any meetings of this group whatsoever.  There were six district Superintendents and one charter Head of School on the coalition.  Quite a few of the teachers were also on the Rodel Teacher Council.  Note the presence of university and college members.  There was a specific reason for that which will come in later parts.  Now, on most education committees and task forces, or any type of education group, there is always representation from the Delaware State Education Association.  But not on this coalition!  To me, the key figures in this group were Michael Watson, Susan Haberstroh, Wayne Hartschuh and Donna Johnson.  They were (and still are) important people at the DOE who were in a position to let the ideas of this group come into being.

In terms of the barriers, the coalition was very visible with what the policy and system barriers could be:

cblbarriers

In answer to why DSEA wasn’t represented on this committee, I think the words “collective barg”, which would be “collective bargaining” gives a clear answer to that question.  Unless this is all about some secret archaeology plan, I can only assume “dig learning” is “digital learning”.

guiding-coalition-3rd-meeting

Policies on seat time?  What does that mean?  In a competency-based world, a student doesn’t move on until they master the assignment or concept.  They must be proficient.  So what measures that proficiency?  The teacher?  Or a stealth assessment embedded into the ed tech the student is working on?  I love how the DOE and ed reformers turn simple words like “jigsaw” into something else.  I know what they mean, but why do they do that?

By the time their January 2015 meeting came around, the holidays came and went.  All eyes were on the Christina School District as they valiantly fought the DOE on the three priority schools in their district.  Red Clay signed their Memorandum of Understanding with the DOE.  A financial crisis occurred during Family Foundation’s charter renewal.  The community rallied for Gateway Lab School.  Parents were talking more and more about opt out.  And the General Assembly was back in session…

To Be Continued in Part 4: Playing with regulations, priorities change, and the DOE and the Governor freak out…

Prologue

Part 1

Part 2

Delaware Education Funding: Teacher Salaries For District & Charters By Student

Teacher Salaries.  This is the bulk of the costs in education.  As it should be.  Teachers are the lifeblood of a child’s education.  The funding for teachers should always be the highest cost for any school, whether it is in a district school or a charter school.  With that being said, below are what our districts and charter schools pay for teachers.  But as with the article on overall spending, it is all in relation to how many students a district or charter has.  There are several opinions that can be drawn from these pictures, but as with all these articles, the percentage of high-needs students can play a huge factor, especially when it comes to special education.  But we can see, based on the numbers, that having too many new teachers may save money in the short-term but it doesn’t bode well for students.

With this article, we have the first charter schools to suffer from what I call BAP: Bad Accounting Practices.  Delaware Military Academy and Delaware College Prep are not included in this because it would be impossible to figure out their teacher salaries.  For the sole reason that they put ALL their salaries under a code of “General Salaries”.  There is no breakdown of teacher, principal, head of school, secretaries, and so forth.  I know their authorizer, Red Clay, has approached them about this with absolutely no change whatsoever.  And Del. Military Academy already had a run-in with the State Auditor a few years back over personal spending.  Del. College Prep had their charter revoked by the Red Clay board and closed at the end of June.

Before you react to the first picture, I would like to remind everyone that the number of students in each district is the biggest factor in all of this.  Some district and charter accounting gurus may look at these and think I have all my numbers wrong.  If they are looking at just the state code that falls under teacher salaries, most of them would be right.  But for the purposes of this article and to get a true understanding of how teachers are paid overall in our districts and charters, I added the following together to come up with the teacher salaries: teacher salaries, academic excellence (essentially a bonus for some teachers), what are known as Extra Pay for Extra Responsibility categories (Sports, Extra-Curricular, and Misc.), Visiting Teachers, and the three Related Services for special education that only about half the districts use for special education teachers (Basic, Intensive, and Complex).  There is absolutely no way to determine how many teachers are tenured or have more experience at each district or charter.  But these are straight-out salaries and do not include benefits or pensions.  That will come soon, but there is a specific reason why I am not including this with the regular salaries.  As well, based on this information, there is no way to calculate how many teachers are in each district or charter.

FY2016DistrictTeacherSalaries

For the most part, district teacher salaries fall in line with how many students are in each district, with only some slight variances between a few districts, and nothing that put them more than one spot ahead or below another district.  Christina cut a lot of teachers after their referenda from FY2015 failed.  So their numbers could be higher next year since their referendum did pass this year and they restored most of the teaching positions.  Not every district has “academic excellence” bonus money they give to teachers.  A lot of these funds come from grants based on AP and advanced classes.  Districts that did not give any funds to teachers for “academic excellence” are Caesar Rodney, Colonial, Indian River, Laurel, Seaford, Woodbridge and Sussex Tech.  Brandywine and Appoquinimink led the pack with these bonuses, with $3.1 and $2.6 million given to teachers in each district.  Christina only had $784 in academic excellence, which leads me to believe something was either miscoded or carried over from the prior year.

FY2016CharterTeacherSalaries

With almost twice the amount of students as Odyssey, it would stand to reason that Newark Charter School would be number one on this graph.  We do see more variances among the charters for teacher spending than exists for the districts.  Charter school teachers in Delaware are not part of teacher unions so collective bargaining does not play a role in their salary negotiations.  What concerns me the most are Freire and Great Oaks which I will go into more detail a bit later.  All of the charter schools that just opened a little less than a year ago came in last for teacher salaries.  Newer charters tend to get less experienced teachers who are new to the profession.  This can cause severe growing pains for new charters.  In fact, out of the seven charters that opened in the past few years, all are in the bottom half when it comes to teacher salaries.

FY2016DistrictTeacherSalariesPerStudent

This is where the pictures change drastically.  New Castle County Vo-Tech takes the number one spot.  Followed by a district in Sussex County.  The top two districts for teacher spending overall, Red Clay and Christina, come in 6th and 8th on this based on the teacher salaries divided by the number of students in the district.  Once again, there is a very direct correlation between how vo-techs are funded and how much they are able to spend.  By not relying on referenda and worrying about local funding, they experience much more freedom than traditional school districts.  It must be nice to be a line item on the state budget!

FY2016CharterTeacherSalariesPerStudent

With charters, we see a vast amount of difference between teacher salaries divided by the number of students in each school.  For schools that have been around for a long time, like Thomas Edison, Academy of Dover, and Family Foundations, they have very low teacher salaries per student.  Especially since they serve some high-need populations.  Either they are paying too little in teacher salaries, there is high turnover, or a combination of both.  On the flip side, how Prestige Academy has the highest teacher salary per student amount in the state, at $6,544 baffles me.  My guess, which will come up in future articles, is they are putting other salaries in with teacher salaries.  Another BAP at play.  Freire, at $1573 a student, and Great Oaks, at an incredibly low $1175 a student, is almost unbelievable.  Either they are miscoding salaries or they do not have enough certified teachers.  Are they utilizing programs like Teach For America and Relay Graduate School too much?  Those programs have very high turnover compared to regular teachers.  These are also high schools, which makes me worried about the post-graduate outcomes of these students.  And no, I don’t mean based on Smarter Balanced Assessment scores.  Not many charters give “academic excellence” funds to teachers.  Only Newark Charter School and Campus Community do this in larger amounts, while Positive Outcomes and Kuumba do this in very low amounts.

teachersalarystudentpercentages

In this last graph, I took the teacher salaries divided by the student count for each charter or district and then divided that by the total per student count.  Sadly, the percentage of cost per student going towards teacher salaries appears to be 7% for Great Oaks.  I would say any charter or district below 25% is not good.  If at least a quarter of spending in schools isn’t going towards teachers, there are most likely some issues.  By the same token, if the amount is too high, like with the four charters at the top, something probably isn’t being coded right in the state accounting system.

Once again, I will reiterate that these amounts are based on expenditures by particular accounting codes during FY2016 for Delaware school districts and charter schools as reported by the state.  This information is put into the Delaware accounting system by each district or charter school.  In certain situations, I can only surmise what might be going on.  They are supposed to follow certain codes, but none of them do it by the book.  And with little or no oversight by our state, they get away with it.  I believe in local control, but there are certain things, in the name of transparency and best practices, that dictate a uniformity, and education spending is at the top of that list!