Ron Russo, the former Head of School at the Charter School of Wilmington, launched The BOLD Plan today on Facebook. Using the tag “Education is a business”, Russo managed to take the most horrible ideas ever from the past three decades and put them into a single pile of absolute garbage. While I don’t think this plan will go anywhere, it is symptomatic of the very same corporate education reform think tank crap that has proliferated American public education and turned Delaware’s school system into a very bad joke. The whole plan can be read below. Continue reading
In the past year, I’ve gotten to know Rachel Blumenfeld. A teacher in the Colonial School District, Rachel is also Jewish. She put a post up on Facebook this morning that she allowed me to share on here. Continue reading
We can’t celebrate successful schools that don’t celebrate diversity, period.
During the State Board of Education meeting tonight, a fascinating conversation took place concerning diversity at Newark Charter School. While Delaware Charter Schools Network Executive Director Kendall Massett did not say a word during the talk, she did something that exhibited a distinct brand of white privilege that had to be seen to be believed. Lucky for me, I saw it. Continue reading
A Delaware charter school leader sent an email about student climate and discipline to their staff in April. While I understood some of the leader’s concerns,
referring to your students as monkeys in a circus is probably not the wisest thing to say in this day and age. If you don’t believe me, ask Roseanne Barr. Even if it could possibly be explained in any context, (see “Not My Circus Not My Monkeys” for why this is crossed out) another email sent from a former staff member only cements the racist tone of the school leader given what the school has been doing gave me some heartburn because of what it suggests. Continue reading
Unless you have lived in a cave the past three days, ABC canceled the popular Roseanne revival after she wrote a tweet about former President Obama’s aide Valerie Jarrett claiming she is a mix of The Muslim Brotherhood and an ape. I put a post of an article on my Facebook feed and the comments on it continued from both sides over the next day. Continue reading
A picture of an email sent to the Caesar Rodney School District Board of Education is making the rounds on social media today. In the email, a high school Junior alleges Scott Wilson cursed at a parent about school walkouts planned in response to the Parkland school shooting two weeks ago. Continue reading
At Del-Tech in Dover last evening, anywhere from 250-300 people showed up for a meeting on the highly controversial Regulation 225. Some of what I saw defied explanation. But what I saw this morning could bring the whole thing to a crashing halt! Continue reading
It looks like State Rep. Rich Collins is taking aim at proposed regulations dealing with gender discrimination according to the weekly newsletter from the Republican Caucus of the Delaware House of Representatives. I felt the need to redline this because there are some points I agree with and some I don’t.
- All students enrolled in a Delaware public school would be able to self-identify gender or race. (Rule 7.4)
I watch the show Shameless. In an episode from last year, a character named Carl wanted to get a DNA test to prove he had African-American ancestry so he could get into a military academy. The white teenager couldn’t get in but the school did have openings for different minorities for 20% of their population. Even though he did not have any African-American ancestry, he did find out he was 3% Apache so he got in. Not sure where I’m going with this, but I thought it was kind of funny. In these episodes dealing with Carl’s situation, another brother named Ian is dating a transgender. The writers did a great job of conveying some of the issues transgender people go through. But I digress.
- A student would have the opportunity to participate on the sports team that is consistent with the student’s gender identity, regardless of the student’s assigned sex at birth. (6.4)
I really don’t know how to comment on this one. I have no issues with gender identity whatsoever. But calling it “assigned sex”? Is that a legal term? I don’t know.
- A student would have the opportunity to participate in the program of instruction dealing with human sexuality that is consistent with the student’s gender identity, regardless of the student’s assigned sex at birth. (3.4)
I would think this is appropriate.
- Regarding physical education programs – goals, objectives and skill development standards could not be designated on the basis of gender. (5.2)
Why does everything have to be a “standard”? What happened to the days when kids went to gym to release energy and play basketball or floor hockey?
- School districts and charter schools would be required to work with students and families on providing access to locker rooms and bathrooms that correspond to students’ “gender identity or expression.” (8.1)
What does “work with” mean? This is a good point. I’ve seen how schools are “required” to work with parents, but sometimes you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.
- Even if a student does not legally change his or her name, he or she can select a “preferred name” based on a “protected characteristic” that school officials would be obligated to use except on official records. (7.3)
I don’t mind this. My son’s name is Jacob. He likes his name. He doesn’t like to be called “Jake”. If he wanted to be called “Bob” in school, I would respect that, as long as he is consistent with it and not changing his “preferred name” every other week.
Pre-filed regulation released today in Delaware’s General Assembly would have the Delaware Department of Education and the State Board of Education to write into Delaware State Code certain provisions to prevent discrimination against students and school employees. The House Joint Resolution, sponsored by State Rep. Deb Heffernan and State Senator Harris McDowell, states the following in the synopsis:
Directing the Delaware Department of Education, with the assistance of the Delaware State Board of Education, to promulgate regulations that prohibit discrimination in school districts’ employment practices or educational programs and activities for students on the basis of any legally-protected characteristic, including gender identity or expression.
Since the resolution is not “officially” filed, it does not appear on the list for the final House Education Committee meeting of the year, next Tuesday June 27th. It will be read into the record today during the House’s session and would be assigned to the education committee.
Updated June 22nd, 2:30pm: Click this link for the actual text of the legislation.
Yesterday, three Delaware State Representatives sent a letter to Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn. They are asking him for an Attorney General Opinion on HS1 for House Bill 85. Things just got very real with this legislation. If Reps. Potter, Bolden, and Kowalko didn’t do it, I would have suggested it. The five mile radius was bad enough. But then to purposefully select certain students from not being allowed to apply to a charter school in their own school district, that puts a very clear mark on this. It isn’t too late though. Delaware Senator David Sokola can choose to get on the right side of history and change the bill so Newark Charter School does take the Christina Wilmington students. Because anything else, under his prime directive, is outright discrimination and segregation. We all know it.
I will not bend to any political request on this legislation. I will not back away from what I originally published. To me, I could really care less about the politics. I don’t care if you are blue or red or purple. If folks want to put their name on this legislation, go right ahead. But I will not change my stance on this. Even if I admire and respect the hell out of some of you for various reasons and would fight like hell for bills that we do agree on, on this bill I will not budge. It is about doing what is right, for ALL students. Yes, the bill is progress, but not enough. We can agree to disagree on that. But I will not be party to political games and not publishing what I know in my heart to be true. It isn’t personal. It wouldn’t matter who sponsored this bill, I would feel the same way and I would have published the exact same article. Yes, I am aware some of the legislators flipped their vote because of how it would make them look. I am aware there was political fighting going on with this legislation. I was there for the whole thing. I opposed the bill when the House Substitute came in, and I made that very clear at the House Education Committee meeting when the bill was released. It isn’t a Democrat thing and it isn’t a Republican thing. It is a student thing. It is an equity thing. It is the right thing.
Earlier this afternoon, State Rep. Rich Collins led the Delaware House of Representatives in prayer and asked them, no matter what, to put children first in their mind when they are voting on legislation. Two and a half hours later, Collins along with 26 other state reps both Republican and Democrat, voted to keep Newark Charter School first.
House Substitute 1 for House Bill 85 passed the House today with 27 yes, 13 no, and 1 absent. The bill removes the 5 mile radius enrollment preference for Delaware charter schools with one exception. Since Christina School District has a portion of their district in Wilmington, that is not landlocked with the rest of the district, those Wilmington children will not be allowed to choice to Newark Charter School. Even though the Wilmington students from Red Clay and Colonial can choice to other charter schools, those Christina Wilmington students can’t choice to that one school. They can still choice to other charters within the district or even outside of the district, but not NCS.
The bill still has to go through the Senate. By primary sponsor State Rep. Kim Williams’ own admission, if the bill did not have that provision it wouldn’t have moved forward in the Senate. The Chair of the Senate Education Committee, Senator David Sokola, used to be on the board of Newark Charter School. It isn’t really a state secret that State Rep. Melanie Smith bought a house in that area so her child can go to Newark Charter School. Why does it always come back to Newark Charter School?
State Rep. John Kowalko put an amendment on the bill that would have removed that provision, but it failed to pass the House. 25 state reps voted no on the amendment.
I know State Rep. Kim Williams very well. I know her intent with this bill was to get a start on changing this process. It is better than what we had before. But it really isn’t. Yes, there will be a greater number of Christina School District students who will have the option of choicing into Newark Charter School. That is true, provided the bill passes and gets signed by Governor Carney. But it also sends a clear statement about Delaware as a state: we will allow de facto segregation. Any time we are disallowing students from having a free and appropriate public education, we are not moving forward as a state, we are moving horribly backwards.
State Reps Charles Potter, Stephanie Bolden, and J.J. Johnson, all African-American, voiced strong opposition to the bill for the same things I am writing. Bolden said it best. What does it say about Delaware as a state when legislation like this comes up? She couldn’t say this, so I will. It shows what a discriminatory state we are to the rest of the country. It says city kids aren’t good enough for a charter in the suburbs. It says we vote in legislators who would rather keep one charter school from opening up to ALL students than making Delaware, the first state to sign the U.S. Constitution, a fair and equitable state for all children.
Let’s be honest here, the only reason for this legislation in the first place is because of Newark Charter School. Taking what could be a good portion of their student population out of the picture in the coming years defeats the whole intent of the bill in the first place.
Which State Reps voted to keep de facto segregation going in Delaware today?
Bryon Short (D)
Paul Baumbach (D)
David Bentz (D)
Gerald Brady (D)
William Carson (D)
Rich Collins (R)
Danny Short (R)
Tim Dukes (R)
Ronald Gray (R)
Kevin Hensley (R)
Deb Hudson (R)
Earl Jaques (D)
Quinton Johnson (D)
Harvey Kenton (R)
Ed Osienski (D)
William Outten (R)
Trey Paradee (D)
Charles Postles (R)
Melanie Smith (D)
Joe Miro (R)
Mike Ramone (R)
Steven Smyk (R)
Jeff Spiegelman (R)
John Viola (D)
Kim Williams (D)
David Wilson (R)
Lyndon Yearick (R)
Only one Republican voted no on the bill, State Rep. Ruth Briggs-King. I find it ironic that many of the Dems who have part of their district in the 5 mile radius for Newark Charter School voted yes. A couple of the no votes surprised me, but I will take it. For those who aren’t familiar with what our state legislators look like, there are no black Republicans in the Delaware House or Senate. All of the above legislators are white.
No offense to Kim Williams, and I get her intent behind this bill, but I can’t support this bill. I vehemently oppose it. Any legislation that restricts a child from doing anything will never be a bill I can get behind. Any bill that gives Delaware an ugly stain on our perception is one I can not support. This is not progress. This is very sad.
We need elected officials in our state who won’t follow the whims of Newark Charter School. We need legislators who will look out for ALL students. We need lawmakers who won’t bow to the Delaware Charter Schools Network and do what is right. We need legislators who realize collaboration when it comes to education is NOT always a good thing. Today was no victory by any means. It was a horrible step backwards in Delaware. We might as well paint a sign on Newark Charter School that says Wilmington students not allowed. The original five mile radius for NCS was bad enough, but this… this is blatant discrimination by a public school that gets funding from taxpayers around the state.
Newark Charter School is one of the best schools in Delaware. It is because of laws like this that have allowed them to cherry-pick their students and take advantage of the law so they give a façade of excellence. If they truly let in any student, they would be no better or worse than the schools around them. But they would be equal. I would never let my child go to a school like that. What kind of lesson would that teach him? If he were picked in their lottery, I would tell him he won because so many kids could not. If I lived in Wilmington, would I really want my child going to a school that practiced discrimination and segregation for over 15 years?
I would tell you to voice your opposition to the Delaware Senate on this bill. But it really doesn’t matter. If it passes as is, it is the same story. If it fails, Newark Charter School still has their 5 mile radius and still keeps kids from the Christina School District out of their prestigious public school. Any attempt at amending the bill will fail. But the truest failure is how Delaware looks to the entire country with this one bill.
Updated, 6:52pm: I want to add one thing. My thoughts on this bill are not a knock on all Delaware charter schools. There are many charter schools in Wilmington who would be more than happy to take the students Newark Charter School doesn’t want. And they do. My main issues with charter schools in Delaware have been the very inequity I am writing about here.
Racism in Delaware is very real. We saw it clearly with the situation at a Delaware Military Academy basketball game. Alleged racial slurs were yelled out by DMA students. When the A.I. Dupont High School basketball team was told to stay in their chairs after the game, members went to go towards the seats where they heard the horrible words. No adult will come forward about this and use honor instead of protecting their charter school. Why?
Racism is rampant in Delaware. Our media, especially The News Journal, does not do enough to curb this. Every time they post any article about issues that could possibly involve race, the hatred pours out in their comments. Perhaps they remove these but they have no filters whatsoever to prevent words like nigger being thrown out there. Don’t believe me? Check out this comment from their poll last night about the DMA/AI incident:
I don’t condone the use of that word by anyone, whether they are black or white. It is a word from history that signifies a time when black people were owned by white people. I don’t believe any race or culture should own the word. It is ugly and full of hatred. We all bleed the same blood. We all smile the same smile and we all shed the same tears. Maybe because I was raised in a home where the value of respecting others was instilled in me at a very early age is the reason I can’t even fathom this kind of hatred.
President Trump, for all his faults, does not bring out this kind of hatred in people. It is there and always has been. There are those who may not like the words but fail to do anything about as evidenced by this comment from a DMA parent:
Fear of retaliation. I’ve heard those words so many times to justify bad decisions in others. If you find those words unacceptable then do the right thing and speak up. What kind of message are you sending your child? That it is okay for others to say things that are unacceptable in today’s society? That adults can act just as bad as kids which further perpetuates racism? Speak up parent! By hiding things and covering them up, you are teaching your own child that it is okay for these things to happen. It is not okay. It is not right. Your job as a parent is to prepare your child for adulthood and instill in them a sense of right and wrong. We all want to protect our children, I get that. But if doing it has a cost that could make anyone think certain things are okay are you really doing your job as a parent? If administrators allow this to continue, what does that say about the school you chose to send your child to? Taking away a senior night, which is the first I’ve heard of any punishment for DMA students, is not enough. If this indeed happened, that would indicate wrong-doing on the DMA team and cheerleaders. If no racial slurs were thrown out, why a punishment at all?
Schools like Delaware Military Academy, Charter School of Wilmington, and Newark Charter School all have very low African-American populations compared to the schools around them. Some have even suggested they allow this culture of racism to continue so they get more white students. This furthers segregation in Delaware, especially around Wilmington. If these charters truly cared about diversity, they would do something about it. Instead, we get long drawn-out essays, significant expenses surrounding school uniforms and sports, and specific interests that dissuade low-income families and minorities from even applying. Despite the many who have called them out on this, our General Assembly turns a blind eye to this and allows this to continue. Despite federal guidance suggesting any specific enrollment should be designed to let students with the highest needs in.
Did the A.I. DuPont H.S. coach do the right thing? Many have suggested he did. By suspending the team for the rest of the season he sent a message that despite what others say reacting to it can only make the situation worse. But what about those players who are being called one of the most vile words in existence? The News Journal wrote an editorial and said the coach made the right decision. However, they did not mention one word about the alleged racial slurs. To me, that word is meant to strip away the humanity from a person and make them feel like less then a human being. Even though the above comment no longer appears in the comments of a poll they put up last night they allowed it to go up. Even by putting a poll up to see if the coach did the right thing without all the information conveyed to those answering the poll, they are slanting the issue.
Delaware is an odd state. We are a state between the south and the north. One only needs to look at the riots in Wilmington in the 1960s to see Delaware’s history with race issues. We still struggle with this in the present. Generations of hatred against black people still exist to this very day. But no one wants to really bring it out in the open. Those of us who try are chastised and told to shut up. That we have no idea what we are talking about. But it continues, every day. Every time we allow any institution to further issues of race, we are allowing the problem to continue. Any time we allow a school, a building of education, to not have student populations that match the local area, we are letting it happen.
The charter schools I mentioned were a cure for not-so-wealthy parents of white students who couldn’t afford to send their kids to private schools. They didn’t want their kids in “those” schools so some of our legislators created the perfect situation: schools with predominant white populations and barriers that effectively prevented “those” kids from even getting into that system. And many parents rushed towards the opportunity. Attack one of those charters and the parents will come out in full force to defend the school with a “How dare you” attitude. They will defend these institutions that further discrimination at the cost of their own souls. They don’t even see they are doing it.
Any person who makes themselves better than another with words designed to hurt someone based on race, gender, disability, age, or social status is discriminatory. They are racist. They are advancing their old-world vision on present-day society. Anyone who fails to speak out about these things happening is living in a fear basket cuddled up in a blanket called enablement. You are allowing this to continue. You are just as bad. If your child was given a hard time at school would you not speak up for them? Most of us would. We wouldn’t worry about fear of retaliation because it is the right thing to speak up for your child and advocate for them when they are unable to. So why would you not speak up when you see your child’s environment is hostile and ugly? That can be just as damaging as any situation where someone comes after your child. You are failing as a parent when you don’t speak up about injustice. If we all did that when we should, there wouldn’t be so much injustice. It would send a clear message that this will not be tolerated. It is unacceptable. We will not be a victim to your cruel words and hatred.
Children are the most susceptible and vulnerable population in this country. They absorb what is around them. If parents show racism as issues at the dinner table or use words to describe people that are not good, kids pick up on it and at a very early age. It becomes part of their personality. It goes both ways with race. Putting down the white man in front of your kids can elicit the same behaviors in kids. I go back to “Remember The Titans”. If it really went down that way, I don’t know. It had to have been “Disneyfied” to some degree. But the message is clear: when we band together we are all one.
I am not afraid to speak out. I will not stop defending the rights of any human being on this planet. And you can throw all the stones in the world at me but I will not let your cowardice stop me. This is why I loathe the use of high-stakes standardized testing in schools. It is just another system that puts up divides instead of unity. Far too many parents say “I don’t want my kid going to that school. Look at their test scores”. And they cycle continues. For the Delaware racists, you know who you are. You know what you harbor in your innermost thoughts. You may think you are right. You may go to church on Sundays and count your blessings. You may believe you have the might of angels behind your beliefs. But what you lack in humility and grace takes all of that away. As for media like The News Journal, telling half a story isn’t addressing any issue. Covering up things that went down and hiding behind “accounts on social media” as if that whitewashes what really went down is not journalism. It is cowardice.
Almost a day since I broke this story, DMA Commandant Anthony Pullella has not responded to my request for information about this incident. I can’t say I’m surprised. Many charter schools like to live in their own bubble and want to ignore the outside world. As if they are the beacon of society and can do no wrong. Why shouldn’t they think that? Our own state government has allowed them to thrive in that belief. Our legislators can sit in their legislative chambers and condemn actions that took place 150 years ago but when the time comes for them to address the true issues that are perpetuating racism, discrimination, and segregation in our state, far too many of them do nothing. Especially when it comes to education. There are those who will fight on these issues, reps like Kim Williams, John Kowalko, and others. But they do not hold the majority. All too often, bills are saturated with words that eventually continue Delaware’s backwards slide into racism. Some don’t even realize this at the time. Critics of issues involving racism and discrimination are all too often marginalized in this state. Our issues become back burner because money and power have the influence in Dover, not what is right. It becomes politics, not morality and doing what is right.
Unless you have been spoken down to like you are less than you are as much as African-Americans have in our very racist state, how can you effectively say you are right? Have you ever walked in the shoes of someone who has been demeaned and humiliated? If the answer is no, then kindly shut up. We don’t want your hatred spewing out of your mouth. I will never condone violence as a response to hatred. It does nothing except make the situation worse. But to point out the potential of violence without addressing why it got to that point is highly irresponsible.
I want to apologize to my readers. For the past two and a half years, I have given a near daily stream of education news in Delaware. The past few days, if you read my article about what has been going on with my son or follow me on Facebook, have demanded I take a backseat to my usual education news. It won’t be permanent. I had a post already set to go which I put out on Saturday about DOE ESSA surveys. On top of a very hectic work weekend, I’ve been dealing with the fallout of facing yet another education institution that would rather discriminate than accommodate. But it has hit my son very hard. He is not okay with this. He is my first priority, always. So if you send me tips and I am unable to reply, please understand it is not intentional and I will catch up with it all. Thank you all, and thank you for all the messages wishing my son and my family well. Your support means more than you will ever know. Family first, always!
Christiana High School wasted no time getting the application for their controversial “Middle School Academy” out to the public. The board approved this kind-of-magnet school last week with a 5-1 vote. The program, slated to start next year with 6th graders, seems to love the word rigor. Many concerned parents in the district have raised serious questions about potential discrimination and what effect this will have on the already existing middle schools in the district. One commenter on an earlier article I posted about this said “Honors programs should be down the hall.” I fully agree with this commenter. I hate the name of this program. It reeks of elitism and sounds like something it is pretending to be and wants to be, but really shouldn’t. It sounds really pretentious and sort of obnoxious. “My child goes to Middle School Academy”… I can hear it already…
The Christiana Middle School Honors Academy requires a high degree of commitment to academic and extra-curricular activities. Our vision offers selected middle school students the opportunity to become academically accomplished, confident, and well-rounded. Selected students will be educated using a rigorous curriculum focused on developing core knowledge, critical thinking and reasoning skills. This will be accomplished by providing each student with a smaller learning community that builds confidence and knowledge which will enhance their individual high school experience.
Aside from the extra-curricular activities, isn’t that what Common Core was supposed to bring to Delaware education to begin with? Why is this district using the same boring Governor Markell talking points to sell this program?
But in the application, one of the requirements is for the student’s Smarter Balanced scores. A quarter of the rubric for the application is weighted toward Smarter Balanced scores. But here is the elephant in the room… what if the student was opted out of Smarter Balanced by their parents? Christina has a board policy which states no student shall be penalized if they are opted out of the wretched test. But this application says nothing about that or gives any indication they would change the formula in that situation. This could cause students or parents who opted their child out to not apply because of the absence of this information. As well, who is determining what the placement test will look like? Has this been approved by the Christina Board of Education? Is this test used by other schools? Has this test been vetted and verified for its effectiveness? If the parent statement is not a part of the rubric, why are they requiring it with the application? Does the parent statement have any weight on the decision of placement? Is there a panel who approves the application or just a principal? What are the qualifications of whoever approves the applications?
Yeah, let’s throw some more controversy gas on an already raging fire!
On Wednesday evening, the Christina Board of Directors voted 5-1 to move forward on a controversial choice program at Christiana High School. The new honors program, which will begin with 6th graders at Christiana High School, will pull the smarter students from existing Christina middle schools. Eventually, this honors program with rigorous standards will have students from 6th-12th grade in it. This will only continue the choice game in Delaware school districts. Christina was one of the last remaining hold-outs on a program like this, but as a recent commenter wrote, they had no choice but to play the choice game.
Board President Elizabeth Campbell Paige was the only no voter for the program. Board member John Young was not present for the meeting, but I have no doubt he would have voted no.
Earlier that day, I gave public comment at a meeting for the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities committee addressing the increasing divide between the “have” and the “have-not” students in Delaware. I warned the committee that very soon the divide will be inseparable. I feel the state is heading in the wrong direction in offering all these different “opportunities” for students. We all know the most disadvantaged students: the poor, those with disabilities, those who are English Language Learners… they don’t get the same opportunities their regular peers do.
In an inter-district choice program, a student can take a bus to school, but they have to be picked up at the closest bus stop in their feeder pattern to where the choice school is. This is true across the state. That makes it very difficult for students whose parents may not have transportation or the means to get their child to that bus-stop.
Choice has become a major joke in this state. We still have charter schools that are either mostly all white or in Wilmington, many charters that are mostly African-American. I find it ironic that the advocates in Wilmington for the WEIC redistricting plan think that will solve all the problems. The plan doesn’t even address the segregation in Delaware, much less Wilmington. All it will do is dump students from one district with a ton of challenges to another district with the same challenges in many of their schools. Both districts are steadily losing students to charter schools.
What Delaware needs is a weighted choice system. With a weighted admission system. Where every single student can get a chance. If there is a lottery at a school like Newark Charter School or Charter School of Wilmington, there needs to be a weighted lottery. This also goes for First State Montessori Academy. They need to get rid of their specific interest preference. They need to put their five mile radius preference first. For a school that is located in the heart of downtown Wilmington, their demographics don’t show it. Charter schools should represent the areas where they are. If the General Assembly won’t put something like this through, I have no doubt the courts will one day. Unless it is for good cause, I don’t think any student should go to a charter school outside of their school district. There should be an immediate ban on this practice.
No more of these “rigor academies” that purposely leave out students who don’t have a chance. It is stacking the deck a certain way. This includes these “honors” programs and even the World Language Immersion programs. The districts are killing themselves and they don’t even know it yet. The districts think these programs are these great things, but they aren’t. It might be for the few who would most likely have the same advantages either way, but not for the students who need more supports and just aren’t getting it. These are 21st Century discrimination games. No matter how many ways you cut this deck, students who need the most will continue to be shoved under the table and can’t make the final cut. What a success story Delaware…
One of the reasons I have always admired the Christina School District is because they don’t have magnet schools or choice schools within their district. That could change tomorrow night when the Christina Board of Education will vote on a proposal to expand the Honors program at Christiana High School from a 9th-12th grade program to a 6th-12th grade program. I understand the why behind it as the district has empty seats in some of their buildings and they will be forced to consolidate at some point. But this… I can’t get behind it.
Before I get into why I can’t support this, let me explain why they are doing it. Christina, over the past fifteen years, has lost a ton of students to charter schools. I truly believe the district wants to let go of the past and start offering richer programs to keep students in the district and to hopefully lure students back from the charters. As well, they are losing honors students to Dickinson High School in Red Clay who offers an International Baccalaureate program. Eventually, the Christina students in Wilmington issue will be resolved one way or another and Christina will lose those students. The district has to make some major changes if they want to survive in the next decade.
But this idea is not good. First off, I don’t think it is a wise idea to place middle school students in a high school setting. Developmentally, they are not on the same level playing field. By osmosis, these students will be exposed to things they are not ready for. There is a reason students in public education are at elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools. To make matters worse, the plan would call for this to start with 6th graders only for the next school year and by 2019 all 6th-8th grade students participating in this program would be integrated as students at a high school. This cohort of 6th graders are going to have a very difficult time at a building with peers who are far older than them.
Furthermore, what happens when all the honors students leave the existing middle schools in the district? That will leave a higher concentration of students who have larger needs. Our current state accountability system for schools will place those schools with a bulls-eye on them when test scores come out. If anyone thinks the Every Student Succeeds Act is going to take care of that they are deluding themselves. It will set up an irreversible system of discrimination and segregation all over again, within their own district. That is something all schools in Delaware should be steering away from, not towards.
This program would have smaller “cohorts” which would mean smaller class sizes. I am all for that but it has to be done across the board. There are existing classrooms in elementary and middle schools that do not have enough support in this district but teachers are forced to handle large classrooms with no support whatsoever. But giving this preference to students who would most likely be considered talented and gifted while not giving those same choices to other students with just as much need if not more is just reinventing the discrimination wheel. I’m not saying talented and gifted students shouldn’t be given those benefits, but I am saying if that benefit exists it needs to happen for all students. No one wins in the large classroom scenario with one teacher.
The State of Delaware, and more specifically, the General Assembly, needs to look at the state school choice law. While the intent may have been honorable in the beginning, it has morphed into pockets of segregation across the state. Some are big and some are small, but they exist. While charter schools take the brunt of the shots fired at these practices, many districts are setting up programs within their own districts that are dividing students. Take the World Language Immersion program as an example. In my day, you took a language. They didn’t put a fancy name on it and start teaching Kindergartners Chinese or Spanish. While I do think it is good for students to learn a second language, and possibly a third depending on their abilities, we are already seeing school districts around the state dealing with issues of segregation between the smarter kids and those with higher needs based on this program. This isn’t even inequity, it is also inequality. When you have both, it is a recipe for disaster for the overall educational health of a state. This example is not just affecting New Castle County schools. Districts in Kent and Sussex County are having these issues as well. But their boards and administration don’t seem to be addressing what is happening within their own schools.
I don’t know what the solution is, but this isn’t it. I don’t understand why they wouldn’t attempt to instill those honors programs in the schools they have now. If they need to combine some schools and possibly sell old property that isn’t being used, that is one thing. But dividing students like this is a lesson Delaware doesn’t want to learn. This is a recommendation from the Superintendent (even though it is an Acting Superintendent). When Christina passed their referendum earlier this year one of their promises was to create programs like this. I am all for better programs in schools. But school choice has led to such severe competition among Delaware schools that future generations of adults are going to be more divided than ever between the haves and the have-nots. We have traditional school districts, charter schools, vo-techs, magnet schools, honors programs, World Immersion programs, and so forth. And I’m not even getting into the Pathways to Prosperity program and how that is setting up particular societal roles in the future.
How can we talk about equity in schools with a weighted funding system when we are forcing schools into that position? We are killing education in this state, one choice program at a time. I believe Christina is trying to rush a program like this into place. Let it marinate a bit. Look at other options. Slow your roll! I’m not convinced this isn’t a case where the Acting Superintendent who will be gone in a few months at most just wants a notch like this on his résumé. I think something this big would need to still be in the discussion stage with a new Superintendent who would be tasked to carry it out.
And in the name of all that is holy can we please get the words rigor or rigorous legally banned from discussion about education? As well, the word “Academy” in traditional school districts signifies something elite that only select students can get into. Not a smart idea to put an “Academy” into a school district.
To read the action item, which will be read for a second time, please go below.
Tony Allen issued a stern warning about Wilmington schools. He said a lawsuit is coming soon if we don’t fix it.
Last Wednesday evening, the Progressive Democrats of Delaware held a panel on Delaware education funding. The panelists were myself, Tony Allen (the Chair of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission), Brian Stephan (on the Christina Citizens Budget Oversight Committee), and State Rep. Paul Baumbach.
The main emphasis of the panel was to discuss the pros and cons of implementing a weighted funding system for Delaware schools. In this type of system, students with higher needs would have more money allocated to them. These would include low-income students, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities. For the last, this already takes place with the exception of basic special education for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.
All the panelists were in agreement that the system we have is not working at all. While I don’t necessarily have an issue with a weighted funding system, the devil is in the details. But beneath the surface, as I stated towards the end of the panel, is the huge elephant in the room concerning accountability. Not for standardized tests but where money is currently going. There is no viable mechanism in Delaware to ensure the funds we are using in public education are truly going to the needs of students. Our state auditor is supposed to audit every single traditional school district for all expenses, but when was the last time we saw one of those reports unless it was part of an official audit inspection? There is no consistency with where funds are going. There are so many sub-groups of payment allocations with many overlapping each other. It is a beast to understand. Coding expenses in definitive places is a must, but no one seems to want to address that at a state level. It is my contention that throwing more money into the system is a recipe for disaster.
Say the advocates for better education in Wilmington schools do file a lawsuit. What would the result be? The feds have made important decisions in the past that put temporary band-aids on the issues but eventually the situation with “failing schools” comes up again and again. The definition of a “failing school” is now tied to standardized tests. It is the heart of all accountability in public education. But it fails to address the issues facing students of poverty, spoken languages that are not English, and disabilities that are neurologically based. The “one size fits all” mentality, which the Delaware Dept. of Education is still pushing in their first draft of the Every Student Succeeds Act state plan, doesn’t work.
Tony Allen told the group he was disappointed the WEIC Redistricting Plan didn’t pass in the General Assembly. He said, without hesitation, that he fears a lawsuit will have to happen to truly address the issues facing Wilmington students. He did concede that one of the biggest issues facing WEIC was not having representation from Kent and Sussex counties in the group. This was something I advised WEIC about in public comment at their very first meeting in August of 2015. It was also why I didn’t go to as many meetings as I could have. But will a federal lawsuit fix Wilmington schools?
In my opinion, the biggest problem in Delaware education among high-needs students is a problem no judge, accountability system, General Assembly, or any advocate can fix: hopelessness. In our biggest cities in the state, and reaching out into the suburbs and rural areas, is a drug problem of epic proportions. And with African-American youth, that comes with a potential of joining a gang. Until that problem is fixed, we will continue to spin our wheels trying to fix education. We can have after-school programs and more guidance counselors in our schools. That will help, but it will NOT solve the problem. I don’t have the answer to that. I don’t know who does. But until we can fix that problem, making our schools the penicillin for the disease facing our state will not get to the heart of the issue. With the drugs and gangs come extreme violence and people getting shot in the streets. This “be tough or die” mentality is the deadliest issue facing Delaware. And when those issues come into our schools, that is when education gets put in the bulls-eye of blame.
I have no doubt, at some point, Tony Allen, Jea Street and others will file some huge lawsuit against the State of Delaware. And many will look towards a judge to solve all our problems. It won’t. Until we get really tough on hopelessness, we will fail.
Last year, the Delaware General Assembly passed House Bill 56 which created a moratorium on new charter school applications in the City of Wilmington until June 30th, 2018 or until the State Board of Education came up with a strategic plan to deal with charter schools in the city. This was signed by Governor Markell on May 5th, 2015. As of today, no strategic plan has come forth.
This bill provides a moratorium on all new charter schools in Delaware until June 30, 2018 or until the State Board of Education develops a strategic plan for the number of charter, district, and vocational-technical schools in the State. Also, the bill requires review and comment from Wilmington’s Mayor and City Council before either a local school district or the Department of Education approves a charter in the City of Wilmington. Lastly, the bill requires the local school board’s approval for a charter school in the City of Wilmington before the Department of Education can approve the charter school.
An amendment was placed on the bill:
The amendment clarifies that the Mayor and the City Council of Wilmington may review and provide comment on applications by charter schools seeking to locate in the City of Wilmington before the school is authorized by the relevant approving authority. It also clarifies that no new charter schools will be authorized to open in the City of Wilmington prior to June 30, 2018 or the development of a statewide strategic plan for specialized public educational opportunities; those charter schools already authorized will be able to open as planned.
While this bill was desperately needed at the time, one of the major failings of the bill was not addressing enrollment issues at already existing Wilmington charter schools. Several new charter schools opened in Wilmington over a two year time span in years 2014-2015 and 2015-2016. Other charters closed down. Meanwhile, other charters submitted modifications to increase or decrease their enrollment. This causes havoc with education funding which is already a beast.
Yesterday, I broke the news that Prestige Academy is slated to become a part of the EastSide empire. But given that the board of Prestige already wrote a letter indicating they would not seek charter renewal for next year and no part of the renewal process has gone forth since that letter, wouldn’t the school becoming a part of EastSide technically be a new charter school? Whatever the intention with Prestige Academy might be, it needs to be publicly addressed now. When Family Foundations Academy became a part of EastSide, it was done with no public ability to comment on the move and was announced at a State Board of Education meeting. Negotiations took place behind the scenes with no transparency whatsoever. By adding a sole-standing charter school into a conglomerate of other charter schools, it essentially changes the entire corporate make-up of a charter school. And for those who aren’t aware, charter schools are considered to be corporations in Delaware.
Charter school modifications have a ripple effect not only on traditional school districts in the area, but also other charter schools. We saw this play into the fates of the Delaware Met, Delaware STEM Academy, Prestige Academy, Delaware Design-Lab High School, and Freire Charter School of Wilmington. All faced enrollment issues which resulted in either closure or a formal review for those enrollment issues with the exception of Delaware Met. For Delaware Met, they were woefully unprepared to open the school and students suffered as a result. There is certainly a correlation between the charters that received approval for larger enrollments and other charters who had less students this year.
I would like to see our 149th General Assembly continue this moratorium on new charter schools in Wilmington but add a few more items to it. Any charter school modification needs to be given the same weight in terms of approval by Wilmington City Council and the local school district. On November 1st, the Delaware Department of Education will begin accepting applications for new charter schools to open in the 2018-2019 school year. These issues need to be addressed by our legislators before the State Board of Education may begin approving more charter schools next April, not only in Wilmington, but the entire state.
I also urge the 149th General Assembly to firmly address the issues of inequity at Newark Charter School, Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware Military Academy, Odyssey Charter School, and Sussex Academy. As well as some of the magnet schools and vo-tech schools in the state. We can no longer move forward in the 21st Century with the severe inequities across our schools that represent a face of discrimination and de-facto segregation. Delaware needs to be better than that. We are still waiting on the Office of Civil Rights to address these issues based on the complaint from the Delaware American Civil Liberties Union and Delaware Community Legal Aid. The OCR has been sitting on this since it went to them in December of 2014, almost two years ago. The reliance of standardized test scores on all Delaware schools has been extremely punitive to schools that have much larger populations of high-needs students, especially in the City of Wilmington and the greater Newark area.
The Indian River School District has seen better times. While the embattled district faces an upcoming referendum in November, they must also contend with a huge influx of new students, a discrimination lawsuit, a budget that cannot handle itself, and an audit coming out this month from the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office. Hopefully the last will answer the question of what their former Chief Financial Officer Patrick Miller was up to. As I reported last month, sources contacted me under anonymity that Miller somehow absconded with millions of dollars in his time as CFO of the district.
Coastal Point reported on September 23rd that Indian River is not the only school district under review by the state Auditor’s office. But, as usual, they are not ponying up any details. I get that, but at the same time it gives them the capability of making things disappear when things get too hot in the kitchen, like the charter school petty cash audit.
“We like doing these things quietly (and make the announcement) when we’re done and we have a report for the public, so there’s not speculation out there,” Wagner said. “People get into wild speculations, and we try to avoid all that.”
On November 22nd, the district will attempt an operating expense referendum, as detailed on their website:
The district is proposing a tax increase of 49 cents per $100 of assessed property value. The measure will raise $7,350,000 in additional local revenue. The average district taxpayer will see an increase of $95.41 in his or her annual property tax bill.
But Coastal Point indicates this may not be the only referendum the school will ask for this school year:
More students means less space for each, so IRSD is working with the Department of Education to potentially build new schools and classrooms. That could possibly mean another referendum in the spring of 2017, for major capital improvement (to build new schools) and current expenses (if more money is needed for continuing costs).
Taxpayers in the district, especially elderly ones, are not going to like the proposition of two tax increases in less than a year. In the Coastal Point article, Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner indicated the investigative audit against Indian River School District will most likely be released to the district first for them to review. After that it will be released to the public. Will it come out before the November 22nd referendum? That could be important for many reasons. If the audit comes back finding something bad, and it comes out before the referendum, that could cause voters to vote no. If it comes out after, taxpayers will say they felt cheated. As well, a post-referendum release could assure a failure of the potential 2nd referendum vote next spring.
The district was very clear about the ramifications of a failed referendum on November 22nd:
If the referendum is not approved by voters, the district could face cuts to school safety, a significant reduction in staff due to an inability to meet payroll, larger class sizes, further discretionary budget cuts, the loss of staff to other school districts and inadequate instructional supplies and materials.
But financial issues are not the only crisis in the district. There is also the matter of what happened earlier this week. On Tuesday, October 4th, it was publicly announced the Coalition for Education Reform filed a federal lawsuit against Indian River. Their allegations claim the district sent a disproportionate number of African-American students to an alternative special education school called the George Washington Carver Academy. According to Randall Chase with WDEL 101.7FM:
The Coalition for Education Reform claimed that the district is using the George Washington Carver Academy, a special education school, as a “punitive dumping ground” for black students branded as “troublemakers.” The group says black students are being removed from mainstream schools and sent to Carver in disproportionate numbers on flimsy pretexts and for arbitrary periods of time, while their educational needs are neglected.
As a parent of a special needs child, I can’t even begin to express how much this concerns me. Shuffling off any students to different schools over discipline issues has become the quick Band-Aid for many Delaware school districts. And some charter schools either expel the student or counsel them out. While a federal lawsuit may not play out for a long time, I have to wonder if the district knew this was coming and is beginning to look at this in future budgets should they lose.
It looks like the Christina School District is not the only district in the state facing an avalanche of issues all at once.
Their reach is everywhere. Foundations who say they represent the best interests of children. Who want to fix education so all children can get a shot. Why then, do so many of the children of these philanthropists, politicians, and corporate education reformers, attend private schools? Ones without the invasive education technology and Common Core standards? That alone should tell everyone they are not in it for the kids. For them, it is about the profit. Servant and master. They feel we should bow down to their infinite wisdom and do as they say. The reports from the Department of Labor showing increasing jobs don’t paint the same picture as the doom and gloom coming from the education “prophets”. They talk about gaps between disadvantaged students and their peers while putting forth policy that enforces those gaps, whether it is from standardized tests, “IEPs for All”, the false importance of education technology, or the perception that traditional school district teachers are horrible. They are the incubators of discrimination and segregation. But they fail to understand how their actions contribute to the outside factors our schools should not have to deal with, such as trauma and poverty. With all their vast wealth and power, they don’t spend their money helping to ease these issues. They believe that it is okay to track students into career pathways starting at the first moment they are able to take a test. They don’t care that very personal information goes out to 3rd parties that have no business seeing any information like this. They wrote the Every Student Succeeds Act. They are the ones pushing for more charter schools. They have the US Dept. of Education in their back pocket along with the politicians and groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council and the National Governors’ Association. They have many colleges and universities doing whatever they say. But they are wrong. What they are doing is the best for themselves, not the kids.