Breaking News: Delaware School District Consolidation Task Force Final Report Released Today

Delaware State Representative and Chair of the Delaware School District Consolidation Task Force Earl Jaques released the final report of the school district consolidation task force today.  The report, seen below, does NOT recommend consolidating school districts based on “findings” that it would not save a substantial amount of money.  It does, however, give recommendations regarding shared services among school districts.  This report, in my opinion, is missing a TON of information! Continue reading

The Sad Legacy Of Delaware Senator David Sokola

It’s hard to believe it has been almost 22 months since the Delaware American Civil Liberties Union and Delaware Community Legal Aid announced their complaint against the Delaware Department of Education and Red Clay Consolidated School District.  That complaint is sitting in the Philadelphia Office of Civil Rights collecting dust.  I read the complaint again this morning.  There is a legislator whose name is mentioned a few times in this complaint as the author of legislation that contributed to segregation in Delaware… Senator David Sokola.

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I’ve noticed in the past week that the upcoming General Election in Delaware has many wondering if Sokola’s accomplishments outside of education should give him a second chance.  I’ve argued that no matter what Meredith Chapman’s stances on education are, they pale in comparison to what Sokola has wrought.  To be honest, aside from a video interview with Delaware United and a citizen commenting on a Facebook thread that Chapman supports a parent’s right to opt out of the state assessment, I have not heard enough from her to get a good picture of her views on education.

cswvsredclay

Knowing what occurred in Delaware because of certain charter schools and their enrollment practices, I thought this would be a slam-dunk in the Office of Civil Rights.  But that office, an offshoot of the U.S. Department of Education, has been strangely silent.  I am aware these complaints take years to reach a ruling.  But the complaint itself says enough about Senator Sokola that any citizen reading it should be able to have a clear picture in their mind.  The complaint also talks about the ignored warnings and omens from many that came with Sokola’s legislation which led to de facto segregation in parts of Delaware.  I have never heard Sokola apologize for this.  I’ve never seen any indication that he understands any of this.

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David Sokola is a very intelligent man.  He is someone who sees data and facts.   His favorite word is “heartburn” when talking about legislation he doesn’t like.  I’ve heard from many about his support for non-education bills that were very progressive in nature.  But as I’ve always said, if you support legislation that will ultimately harm children, that is not very progressive.  Like the citizens of Delaware who offered warnings before harmful Sokola legislation passed in the Delaware General Assembly, I offer a warning to Delaware.  If the citizens of the 8th Senate District vote Sokola back into another term, Delaware children will suffer.  Numbers don’t lie, and even if those charter schools changed their enrollment preferences to get rid of pre-enrollment assessments, 5 mile radius, sibling preferences, employee preferences, or the many other little things that contributed to the eventual outcomes we now see, it will be years before the situation balances between those three charter schools and the districts around them.

The complaint against the Delaware DOE and Red Clay is below.

East Side Charter & NYC Success Academy Benefit Immensely From Attrition & Proficiency Scores

On Diane Ravitch’s blog, she wrote an article today based on an editorial in the Wall Street Journal about the attrition rate at the Success Academy in Harlem.  The editorial, by Michael Mulgrew, the President of the United Federation of Teachers in NYC, pointed out Success Academy 13 in Harlem has very high attrition rates and high-needs children frequently leave the school.  This puts the school at an advantage in terms of proficiency scores on standardized testing.

Two months ago, Nelia Dolan pointed out that in one year, East Side Charter in Wilmington had 62 children in one grade, and their scores were lower on DCAS.  The scores dramatically improved the next two years, however that same group of kids was reduced to 29.  This illusion of improvement plays out constantly in Delaware and across America.  Success is only as great as the true story, and the story by Mulgrew gives some startling facts:

“While Ms. Moskowitz cites a recent report from the city’s Independent Budget Office about student attrition in charters, she neglects to mention an earlier IBO report that found that it is the less successful students who tend to leave New York City charters. And as Princess Lyles and Dan Clark note “Keeping Precious Charter-School Seats Filled,” op-ed, Feb. 3), failure to fill these seats allows a school to maintain “the illusion of success,” as the percentage of proficient students rises.”

As Governor Markell continues to compare the six priority schools in Wilmington to East Side Charter and Booker T. Washington Elementary School in Dover, he forgets these types of facts.  Booker T., I recently found out, also holds the district’s gifted and talented program for elementary schools in the district.

To read the full story on Mulgrew’s editorial response to Success Academy’s Eva Moscowitz, please go here: http://dianeravitch.net/2015/02/13/mulgrew-disagrees-with-eva-about-charter-cherry-picking/

Say, didn’t one of Delaware’s biggest charter supporter also write an editorial about the myth of cherry-picking in Delaware charter schools?  I seem to recall that….

Next Stop For Ex Family Foundations Heads Brewington & Moore: Attorney General’s Office

Sean Moore and Dr. Tennell Brewington, the fired ex heads of school at Family Foundations Academy, a charter school in Delaware, will soon be facing potential criminal charges through the State Attorney General office.  According to an Update Report filed with the Delaware Department of Education on January 30th from the new Board of Directors at Family Foundations Academy, Brewington and Moore’s past actions have been sent to Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn’s office.

“All information concerning past possible criminal violations by FFA personnel has been referred to the Delaware Attorney General’s Office.”

In addition, five prior business contracts with Family Foundations Academy have been terminated, and three were modified.  All purchase cards have been taken away from employees with the exception of Dr. Lamont Browne and East Side Charter and Family Foundations Academy Director of Finance and Operations.  But these purchase cards may return at some point:

“although we are seeking to have that capability restored because it is very burdensome to conduct business without having the use of that facility, and we have full confidence in the appropriate use of the Pcard under Dr. Browne’s leadership and supervision.”

Family Foundations Academy was placed on Formal Review by Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and the Delaware State Board of Education at their January meeting.  The formal review will be for 60 days after the January State Board of Education meeting, and a decision on the review will be rendered at the March State Board of Education meeting.  To read the full Update Report, please read the below file.

 

Delaware House Bill 29: Moratorium On All New Wilmington Charter School Applications

We knew this was coming, but now it’s official.  Next stop, House Education Committee:

SPONSOR: Rep. Potter & Sen. Henry
Reps. Bolden, Keeley, Kowalko

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES148th GENERAL ASSEMBLY

 

HOUSE BILL NO. 29

 

AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO CHARTER SCHOOLS.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE:

Section 1. There shall be a moratorium on all new charter schools within the City of Wilmington until June 30, 2017.

SYNOPSIS

This bill provides for a moratorium on all new charter schools within the City of Wilmington until June 30, 2017.

Message From The DE ACLU In Wake Of Wilmington City Council Vote To Ban New Charter Schools

The Delaware American Civil Liberties Union has put out a message to all citizens of Delaware following the vote by the Wilmington City Council to ban all new charter schools in the City of Wilmington last Thursday night.  Nancy Willing, of Delaware Way, has written the following:

Any parent in the state of Delaware who has experienced problems getting their child into a charter school or keeping a child in a charter school should contact the ACLU of Delaware! http://www.aclu-de.org/. The ACLU’s resegregation lawsuit is focusing on the actionable classes of either special needs or minority children but I would think they’d be interested in the testimony of any parent whose child was denied admission to a public charter school.

Sad to say, I know far too many people who should probably check this out if they haven’t already…

Priority Schools: FOIAs, Injunctions, Meetings, Petitions, Legislators **UPDATED**

The priority school crisis in Delaware has reached a fever pitch this week.  Today, the Christina School District “Negotiation” team is making a last ditch effort to try to negotiate with the despotic Delaware Department of Education.  Most believe it is for naught, as the DOE and Governor Markell have already made up their mind and are gearing up to present this to the public.

There are still a few things that could stop or stall this authoritarian initiative.  Unreleased FOIAs could give insight to any irregularities or outright illegal actions on the part of the DOE.  The DOE could accept CSD’s new MOU (about the same time as North Korea becomes a free and open country).  Someone or a group could file an injunction which would buy some time for other alternatives.  A petition will be hand delivered to Mark Murphy’s office today with well over 600 signatures by Delaware Parents & Teachers For Public Education, maybe this will have some weight.  The 148th General Assembly will step in and put a stop to it.

This is what I think will happen: Meeting goes south today, Markell makes an announcement either on his weekly public address tomorrow or Monday, an injunction is filed, much awaited FOIAs get released Monday that will be so heavily redacted nothing will make sense, and this starts getting sold to the public the week after next if the injunction doesn’t prevent that.  And for those who think Red Clay is in the clear, think again.

Here’s the thing though: This violates Federal law.  There are many students with IEPs.  ANY change in placement is an IEP Team decision.  So unless every single student’s IEP Team had the opportunity to be given every single choice and decided on it, any priority school MOU is illegal.  We are dealing with least restrictive environment, FAPE, and educational placement here.  Any change, whether it is extending the school day, or Extended School Year summer classes, or a change from public school district to charter is something the IEP Team decides, not the Delaware DOE or Governor Markell.

So if Markell and the DOE want to go ahead with their plans, go right ahead.  But you will be facing the above.  And I will personally spearhead this special education initiative.  You always forget about the special needs students, don’t you?

UPDATED, 1/9/15: As of 1:00pm, the negotiations are still going on.  I will keep you updated if I hear anything!

How Does A Student Get A 4 On DCAS At A Charter, Transfer To A Public School, And Can’t Read?

This is what I’ve heard about one student in the Northern part of Delaware.  This child went to a charter school that has been in the news a bit lately.  Getting the ultimate score of 4 on both English and Math on the DCAS test, this student transferred to their local school district.  Upon taking the SRI reading test, it was very quickly discovered this student cannot even read.  The worst part: this is a student with disabilities.

Apparently this student also took the DCAS with NO accommodations.  How is this even possible?  Unless…  Yes, this charter school is a cheat.  They found a way to make their scores even better for special needs students.  Their big mistake though was not doing the same for all students, and they were questioned about it.

This is why the high-stakes standardized testing game needs to be eliminated as any source of proficiency for students.  If a school can rig the game and an honest school doesn’t, it changes the entire landscape.  Especially if those with a vested interest in certain schools helped to design the test.  So while we have schools doing the right thing, and they are laid out on the floor for doing so, other schools have been cheating for years and unless they have other major problems flowing like water through a burst pipe, they get away with it.

I do believe there are honest charter schools as well.  Ones that work their ass off when they get low scores one year and only increase marginally the next but they are saved from the executioner’s axe.  But the ones that are cheating, and I know who a few of you are, you are the most vile disgusting scum in the state.  It’s not because you look better on paper.  It’s not because the DOE and Markell want to give you a ticker-tape parade when your scores are released.  It’s not because you narrowed the gap among different subgroups.  It’s because you are failing our students.  The students aren’t failures, you are.  You have been given a sacred trust, and you abuse that trust every chance you get.  These are human beings, not human capital.  They are children.  They are not to be used as pawns in your power games.

This is why we have priority schools.  This is why so many special needs children suffer so much in this state.  How can any student in any of these cheating schools ever be given a fair shot in life?  How can parents of charter school students accuse public school districts of giving free passes to students when some of these very same schools permanently damage students?  How in God’s name will any of these “proficient” students feel when they take the Smarter Balanced Assessment and fail miserably?

I encourage anyone who knows about these cheating scandals to come forward.  Cause if I expose you, it won’t be pretty.  I’m not sure why I’m assigning myself the job the DOE should be doing in the first place, but hey, that’s life.  There has to be a place in hell for anyone who would use children like this.  I think there should be legislation put forth that anyone involved in a cheating scandal like this should be prosecuted and do prison time if found guilty.  Does this sound too harsh?  Imagine how the poor student at a new school who thought they were doing good in school feels.  Being told you can’t read.  How do the parents feel?  Thinking their child is doing well only to find out it was all a lie and their child is most likely years behind their peers?  This is a rape of the mind, of the soul.

Where Do We Go From Here? The State of Education in Delaware @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @RCEAPrez @Apl_Jax @ecpaige @nannyfat @Roof_O @DelawareBats #netde #eduDE #Delaware #edchat

The last major education meeting of 2014 happened yesterday, and it was a doozy!  As I look back at all the events of 2014 in our 1st state with regards to education, I have to wonder about the future.  There are several things going on simultaneously.  Something happened yesterday at the DE State Board of Education meeting that can change everything.

The board voted 4-3 to renew the charter for Gateway Lab School.  Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy’s comment about why he chose to renew their charter stemmed from about a month of the public pounding on the choice not to renew.  This means the public does have a voice and is able to influence education in Delaware.  The problem is not enough of us have been using that voice.  If the groundswell of support for Gateway happened with things like the removal of Common Core and parental opt-out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, just think what could happen.

Over half of the Delaware General Assembly wrote to renew Gateway’s charter.  Some of them were ones who already speak out about the changes in education and the priority schools.  But many of them are ones nobody ever affiliates with education.  The Gateway crisis actually opened a lot of ears to education in Delaware.  It also exposed the DOE as being to beholden to test scores.  This is a good thing.

Our next moment of direct attention needs to be towards the priority schools initiative.  While I’m not an expert on state code and the Delaware Constitution, I can see things are manipulated and twisted in order to allow the priority schools demands.  Governor Markell and Mark Murphy have looked for the most miniscule of loopholes to do this, but did they find them all?  Some, like State Representative John Kowalko, do not think they did and he has a strong case for the legality of the initiative.

Common Core and Smarter Balanced Assessment will be a hot button of talk in the coming months.  More and more parents are waking up to the reality of this, and anyone who finds out what the true purpose of it all is wants it to be gone.  A message for those parents: spread the message fast and furious and do it yesterday.  Because everything the DOE and Markell have done, want to do and will do ties directly to standardized test scores.  It is their sole focus.  We are no longer a state where true education, occurring everyday in our schools, is a concern.  It’s about a once a year test that will judge teachers, principals and students.  And by a large default, parents as well.

I firmly believe the purpose of these “initiatives” is not for the betterment of our children’s education but the creation of more and more charter schools.  Some may ask, “Then why are they closing charter schools?”  Because even Super Bowl winners need to cut the weak links on a team.  This becomes a reverse choice option for parents.  They’re forced to make a choice against their original choice.

For the charter supporting parents out there: I know you will defend these schools and I support you for doing that.  But do not be blind to the realities behind charter schools.  They have boards that are not publicly elected, they have budget committees (or don’t in some cases) that do not have the proper representation, and their version of transparency is very clouded.  Nobody was talking about Family Foundations a month ago, but in the past week it is all anybody is talking about.  Years of financial mismanagement and allegations of outright theft at that school will hopefully lead to a careful examination of all the charter schools and how they spend their money.  I am not saying all the charters do this, but it is more than you think.  And I will expose them if the state doesn’t.

We need to do what is best for our children.  Every single one of us.  Far too many of us disagree on what the best course is, but we all need to come together one way or another, before any choice is gone forever.