Delaware Attorney General’s Office Ignores FOIA Law In, Uhm, Opinion About, Uhm, A FOIA Complaint!

Carve me up and serve me on a platter!  I have seen a lot in Delaware the past few years, but this one takes the proverbial cake!  On May 26th, I submitted a FOIA complaint against Early College High School regarding their Board of Director meetings.  It was three-fold.  The Delaware Attorney General’s office responded today.  I get what they were saying regarding my first two complaints.  But the third one.  Oh.  My.  God.  This is stuff kids on Romper Room know about FOIA! Continue reading “Delaware Attorney General’s Office Ignores FOIA Law In, Uhm, Opinion About, Uhm, A FOIA Complaint!”

Big Year For Charter Renewals Coming: Academia Antonia Alonso, Early College High School, First State Montessori, Sussex Academy & Thomas Edison

Five Delaware charter schools will go through their charter renewal process next Fall.  The Delaware Department of Education’s Charter School Office had what I am sure was a huge task of sending out reports to the schools.  Academia Antonia Alonso, Early College High School, First State Montessori Academy, Sussex Academy, and Thomas Edison Charter School are all up for renewal.  With any charter school renewal, the DOE goes through everything: Academics, Financial, and Organizational.  No stone is left unturned.  With five charters and all three Delaware counties represented in these renewals, the public hearings will be everywhere.  But it looks like the Charter School Office has planned ahead and scheduled different public hearings on different days.  Last year, there was only one charter school (Academy of Dover) that went through the renewal process.  There would have been two but Prestige Academy opted to close their doors at the end of this school year.

In reviewing the below renewal reports and the charter schools responses to those reports, I didn’t have any alarm bells going off.  I do have concerns about the demographics of two of these schools, First State Montessori Academy and Sussex Academy.  At least one of these schools has some financial issues that seem to have flown under the radar for a long time now.  Hopefully more will come out during this process.  And one of them, I strongly suspect but can’t prove…yet, has a secret going all the way back to the origin of their school…

Here are all the schools renewal reports from the Charter School Office, their responses, and the timeline issued by the Charter School Office for this mammoth process:

Academia Antonia Alonso:

Early College High School

First State Montessori Academy

Sussex Academy

Thomas Edison Charter School

Charter School Renewal Timeline:

 

Delaware Competency-Based Education, Part 1: Rodel, DOE & Achieve Inc. Team-Up

Personalized Learning, as a concept, has been around since the 1960’s.  In its original form, it was an effort to personalize learning between a teacher and a student.  Students don’t always learn at the same pace.  The term has been bastardized by corporate education reformers over the past five years.  Their idea is to launch a technology boom in the classroom where investors and ed-tech companies will get tons of money.  To do this, they had to use education “think-tanks” and foundations to sway the conversation towards this lucrative gold-mine.  No one has been a bigger supporter of personalized learning in Delaware than the Rodel Foundation.  They began talking about this new and exciting education reform movement as early as November, 2011.  A company called Digital Learning Now! released their 2011 report card on different states ability to transform into a digital learning environment and Delaware scored poorly on their report.  According to this Rodel article on the report written by Brett Turner (the link to the report card doesn’t exist anymore), Turner wrote:

…the initial results are not promising, demonstrating that we have significant work ahead of us before the necessary policies are in place to ensure our students benefit from high-quality next generation learning opportunities.

Digital Learning Now! was an initiative of the Foundation for Excellence in Education.  Other digital “experts” the company thanks in their 2012 report include the Alliance for Excellent Education, the Data Quality Campaign, iNACOL, SETDA, Chiefs for Change, Getting Smart, and the Innosight Institute.  The Foundation for Excellence in Education was founded by Jeb Bush in 2008, just as Common Core was in its formation stages.  In the Rodel article, Turner talks about how Delaware needs to adapt to this environment so our students can succeed.

Over the next two and a half years, as Race to the Top became more of a nightmare than a promise of better education, Rodel began to take steps to have Delaware become a part of this next big thing.  They formed the Rodel Teacher Council to recruit well-intentioned teachers to join their personalized learning dream team.  I don’t see these teachers as evil but rather teachers who are easily manipulated and coerced into being connected with the “next big thing”.  I see them as unwitting pawns of Rodel.

Rodel didn’t write much about personalized learning too much during this time, but they did release a Personalized Learning 101 flyer in 2013.  At the same time, four Delaware districts formed BRINC: Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech, and Colonial.  Using funds from Race To the Top and a Delaware DOE “innovation grant”, the districts used Schoology and Modern Teacher to usher Delaware into the digital learning age.  Rodel’s blog posts about personalized learning didn’t touch on the concept again until February, 2014 when a Rodel employee by the name of Matthew Korobkin began writing posts about digital learning.  More followed by other Rodel employees in the coming months.  At this time, Dr. Paul Herdman of Rodel was palling around with an ed-tech company called 2Revolutions and went around Delaware talking to groups about the glory of personalized learning.

In the beginning of June in 2014, Rachel Chan with the Rodel Foundation attended a seminar in Washington D.C. on personalized learning sponsored by iNACOL.  She wrote about this extensively on the Rodel website.

Later that month, the United States Department of Education released their state reports on special education in America.  Delaware received a rating of “needs intervention”, prompting Governor Jack Markell to set aside funding in the state budget for a special education “Strategic Plan”.  What no one knew until recently was this plan consisted of hiring Korobkin away from Rodel and into Secretary of Education Mark Murphy’s office to put this plan together.

Later in the summer of 2014, the Delaware Department of Education, with the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, banded together to form a clandestine group of “stakeholders” to look at competency-based education in a personalized learning environment in Delaware.  The biggest hurdle in getting this going in Delaware was the barriers in the state code.  Their were many players in this non-public group, including members of the Rodel Teacher Council who were also working on a “Personalized Learning Blueprint” at the same time.  This group shaped the future of education in Delaware.  But they used people to do so, including some of the members of this group.

The timing for this group couldn’t have come at a better time.  There were many distractions happening that allowed them to fly under the radar with no one the wiser.  Invitations were sent out to select participants from Theresa Bennett at the Delaware DOE.  She was an Education Specialist for English/Language Arts in the Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development area of the DOE.  She was the person who scheduled all the meetings.  An introductory webinar, sponsored by Achieve Inc., was held on August 14th, 2014.

After an explanation of competency-based education and personalized learning from some folks at Achieve Inc., they opened the webinar up for questions.  At the 30:07 mark on the video, Appoquinimink Superintendent Matt Burrows explained his district already began the process for personalized learning.  He mentioned several hurdles, especially the teachers’ union.  Next came Judi Coffield, the former Head of School at Early College High School, a charter school run through Delaware State University.  Coffield asked how Carniege units and high school grades would come into play with this.  Bennett explained what role the DOE played in this and how she and Rachel Chan from the Rodel Foundation were going to run the group.  Bennett went on to explain that select allies were invited to participate in this group.  She also talked about a meeting with Achieve Inc. in Washington D.C. in May of 2014 to pave a path forward.

Bennett did a roll call of who was participating in the webinar.  Jose Aviles, the director of admissions at the University of Delaware, was not on the call.  Bennett explains how Aviles accompanied her to the Achieve Inc. meeting.  “Is there a representative from Delaware PTA on the call?”  No response.  “Is Donna Johnson on the call?”  Silence.  “Kim Joyce from Del-Tech?”  Nothing.  “Pat Michle from Developmental Disabilities Council?”  Empty air.  She added Laurie Rowe and Stanley Spoor with Howard High School of Technology would be joining them.  Susan Haberstroh with the Delaware DOE joined later in the Webinar.

Rodel and Markell knew they needed to stage a distraction to further this personalized learning agenda away from prying eyes while at the same time steering the conversation towards their end goals by using the distraction.  They knew one of these distractions would automatically happen based on federal mandates from the US DOE, but the other would need careful planning and coördination.  The first drove the need for the second.

A few weeks later, Governor Markell and then Secretary of Education Mark Murphy announced the six priority schools in Wilmington.  The DOE picked the six “lowest-performing” schools in Wilmington, DE and announced the two school districts involved, Red Clay and Christina, would have to sign a “memorandum of understanding” and submit to the demands of the Delaware DOE.  This put the entire city into an educational tailspin.  Teachers in the affected schools felt outrage at the Governor and the DOE.  Parents didn’t know what this meant.  Politicians scrambled to make sense of it all as primaries and general elections faced them while constituents furiously called them.  Teachers in Delaware were still reeling from the upcoming Smarter Balanced Assessment and the scores tied into their evaluations.  Meanwhile, the secret meetings of the Delaware Department of Education Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition began without any public notice as an email went out from Bennett…

Thank you for your interest in the Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition.  If you were unable to attend the informational webinar, please use this link to access the recording:   http://www.achieve.org/DelawareCBLwebinar  

The Guiding Coalition will be charged with laying the foundation for competency-based learning in Delaware. This will include creating a working definition of competency-based learning and what it could look like in Delaware, understanding current barriers to implementing CBL in Delaware, and establishing support for CBL initiatives to take root in the state. Once we have a common understanding of CBL, we will surface key ideas and develop recommended strategies for helping CBL take shape in the state.

The time commitment for the Advisory Group of the Guiding Coalition will be attending approximately two or three 2-hour meetings during the coming school year, with 30-60 minutes of pre-work for each meeting. There will also be opportunities to engage further through optional readings, school visits, webinars, and other convenings if your schedule/level of interest allows.

We are excited to share that an expert facilitator will be guiding each of our meetings; we would like to collect information to inform our meeting agendas.  Please complete the following survey by September 10th:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/DECompetency-BasedLearning.  

Please complete a Doodle to help us best schedule the meetings for this group.  We hope to begin late September/early October, with meetings held in Dover. Responses to the Doodle poll will help us find the best day/time for the first meeting. Please use this link: http://doodle.com/mts6ncf74v77mnf

Best,

Theresa

Theresa Bennett

Education Associate, ELA

Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development

Delaware Department of Education

401 Federal Street, Suite #2

Dover, DE 19901-3639

Coming up in Part 2: Delaware gets Marzanoed

Two Truths And A Lie

This is the beginning of what I hope will be an ongoing feature of this blog.  Below will be several groups of statements and facts.  Two will be true and one will be a lie.  It will be your job to guess or determine which is fact and which is fiction!  Comment away!

#1

*EastSide Charter School and Family Foundations Academy are blaming their Smarter Balanced scores on the fact their kids are not as computer literate as their peers in other schools

*Sussex Academy won’t be able to finish their pool because of mercury in the ground.

*Freire Charter School signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Wilmington Police Department

#2

*Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick was so happy their referendum passed he was seen doing cartwheels the next day.

*Academia Antonia Alonso wants no help from the Charter School Office at the Delaware DOE with their upcoming move to property at Odyssey Charter School.

*Howard High School of Technology suspended students who were in the bathroom the day of Amy’s death and kept suspending them for weeks on end without any form of due process.

#3

*Charter School of Wilmington held a legislative breakfast.

*Charter School of Wilmington wants an audit inspection to be released that has been on hold since March.

*Charter School of Wilmington will be allowing 20% of all students with disabilities who applied this year to be admitted to the school in August.

#4

*Early College High School parents are not happy about the school’s grading system since the school’s scores didn’t match up with Delaware State University’s grading system

*Penny Schwinn is coming back to the Delaware DOE.

*Dr. Lamont Browne mentioned my blog post about his resignation at a Family Foundations Academy board meeting.

#5

*Family Foundations Academy held pep rallies prior to the school’s testing window for the upcoming Smarter Balanced Assessment to pump up kids.

*A Delaware State Representative recently had a Facebook post titled “State Representative Looking For Beaver”.

*The same State Representative found some beaver and had a barbecue.

The Delaware Illuminati, Part 1: Jeb Bush Inspires Rodel

Personalized Learning, as a concept, has been around since the 1960’s.  It is an effort to personalize learning so a student doesn’t always learn at the same pace as other students.  The term has been bastardized by corporate education reformers over the past five years.  Their idea is to launch a technology boom in the classroom where investors and ed-tech companies will get tons of money.  To do this, they had to use education “think-tanks” and foundations to sway the conversation towards this lucrative gold-mine.  No one has been a bigger supporter of personalized learning in Delaware than the Rodel Foundation.  They began talking about this new and exciting education reform movement as early as November, 2011.  A company called Digital Learning Now! released their 2011 report card on different states ability to transform into a digital learning environment and Delaware scored poorly on their report.  According to this Rodel article on the report written by Brett Turner (the link to the report card doesn’t exist anymore), Turner wrote:

…the initial results are not promising, demonstrating that we have significant work ahead of us before the necessary policies are in place to ensure our students benefit from high-quality next generation learning opportunities.

Digital Learning Now! was an initiative of the Foundation for Excellence in Education.  Other digital “experts” the company thanks in their 2012 report include the Alliance for Excellent Education, the Data Quality Campaign, iNACOL, SETDA, Chiefs for Change, Getting Smart, and the Innosight Institute.  The Foundation for Excellence in Education was founded by Jeb Bush in 2008, just as Common Core was in its formation stages.  In the Rodel article, Turner talks about how Delaware needs to adapt to this environment so our students can succeed.

Over the next two and a half years, as Race to the Top became more of a nightmare than a promise of better education, Rodel began to take steps to have Delaware become a part of this next big thing.  They formed the Rodel Teacher Council to recruit well-intentioned teachers to join their personalized learning team.  I don’t see these teachers as evil.  I see them as unwitting pawns of Rodel.  Rodel didn’t write much about personalized learning too much during this time, but they did release a Personalized Learning 101 flyer in 2013.  At the same time, four Delaware districts formed BRINC: Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech, and Colonial.  Using funds from Race To the Top and a Delaware DOE “innovation grant”, the districts used Schoology and Modern Teacher to usher Delaware into the digital learning age.  Rodel’s blog posts about personalized learning didn’t touch on the concept again until February, 2014 when a Rodel employee by the name of Matthew Korobkin began writing posts about digital learning.  More followed by other Rodel employees in the coming months.  At this time, Dr. Paul Herdman of Rodel was palling around with an ed-tech company called 2Revolutions and went around Delaware talking to groups about the glory of personalized learning.

In the beginning of June in 2014, Rachel Chan with the Rodel Foundation attended a seminar in Washington D.C. on personalized learning sponsored by iNACOL.  She wrote about this extensively on the Rodel website.

Later that month, the United States Department of Education released their state reports on special education in America.  Delaware received a rating of “needs intervention”, prompting Governor Jack Markell to set aside funding in the state budget for a special education “Strategic Plan”.  What no one knew until recently was this plan consisted of hiring Korobkin away from Rodel and into Secretary of Education Mark Murphy’s office to put this plan together.

Later in the summer of 2014, the Delaware Department of Education, with the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, banded together to form a clandestine group of “stakeholders” to look at competency-based education in a personalized learning environment in Delaware.  The biggest hurdle in getting this going in Delaware was the barriers in the state code.  Their were many players in this non-public group, including members of the Rodel Teacher Council who were also working on a “Personalized Learning Blueprint” at the same time.  This group shaped the future of education in Delaware.  But they used people to do so, including some of the members of this group.

The timing for this group couldn’t have come at a better time.  There were many distractions happening that allowed them to fly under the radar with no one the wiser.  Invitations were sent out to select participants from Theresa Bennett at the Delaware DOE.  She was an Education Specialist for English/Language Arts in the Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development area of the DOE.  She was the person who scheduled all the meetings.  An introductory webinar, sponsored by Achieve Inc., was held on August 14th, 2014.

 

After an explanation of competency-based education and personalized learning from some folks at Achieve Inc., they opened the webinar up for questions.  At the 30:07 mark on the video, Appoquinimink Superintendent Matt Burrows explained his district already began the process for personalized learning.  He mentioned several hurdles, especially the teachers’ union.  Next came Judi Coffield, the former Head of School at Early College High School, a charter school run through Delaware State University.  Coffield asked how Carniege units and high school grades would come into play with this.  Bennett explained what role the DOE played in this and how she and Rachel Chan from the Rodel Foundation were going to run the group.  Bennett went on to explain that select allies were invited to participate in this group.  She also talked about a meeting with Achieve Inc. in Washington D.C. in May of 2014 to pave a path forward.

Bennett did a roll call of who was participating in the webinar.  Jose Aviles, the director of admissions at the University of Delaware, was not on the call.  Bennett explains how Aviles accompanied her to the Achieve Inc. meeting.  “Is there a representative from Delaware PTA on the call?”  No response.  “Is Donna Johnson on the call?”  Silence.  “Kim Joyce from Del-Tech?”  Nothing.  “Pat Michle from Developmental Disabilities Council?”  Empty air.  She added Laurie Rowe and Stanley Spoor with Howard High School of Technology would be joining them.  Susan Haberstroh with the Delaware DOE joined later in the Webinar.

Rodel and Markell knew they needed to stage a distraction to further this personalized learning agenda away from prying eyes while at the same time steering the conversation towards their end goals by using the distraction.  They knew one of these distractions would automatically happen based on federal mandates from the US DOE, but the other would need careful planning and coordination.  The first drove the need for the second.

A few weeks later, Governor Markell and then Secretary of Education Mark Murphy announced the six priority schools in Wilmington.  The DOE picked the six “lowest-performing” schools in Wilmington, DE and announced the two school districts involved, Red Clay and Christina, would have to sign a “memorandum of understanding” and submit to the demands of the Delaware DOE.  This put the entire city into an educational tailspin.  Teachers in the affected schools felt outrage at the Governor and the DOE.  Parents didn’t know what this meant.  Politicians scrambled to make sense of it all as primaries and general elections faced them while constituents furiously called them.  Teachers in Delaware were still reeling from the upcoming Smarter Balanced Assessment and the scores tied into their evaluations.  Meanwhile, the secret meetings of the Delaware Department of Education Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition began without any public notice as an email went out from Bennett…

Thank you for your interest in the Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition.  If you were unable to attend the informational webinar, please use this link to access the recording:   http://www.achieve.org/DelawareCBLwebinar  

The Guiding Coalition will be charged with laying the foundation for competency-based learning in Delaware. This will include creating a working definition of competency-based learning and what it could look like in Delaware, understanding current barriers to implementing CBL in Delaware, and establishing support for CBL initiatives to take root in the state. Once we have a common understanding of CBL, we will surface key ideas and develop recommended strategies for helping CBL take shape in the state.

The time commitment for the Advisory Group of the Guiding Coalition will be attending approximately two or three 2-hour meetings during the coming school year, with 30-60 minutes of pre-work for each meeting. There will also be opportunities to engage further through optional readings, school visits, webinars, and other convenings if your schedule/level of interest allows.

We are excited to share that an expert facilitator will be guiding each of our meetings; we would like to collect information to inform our meeting agendas.  Please complete the following survey by September 10th:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/DECompetency-BasedLearning.  

Please complete a Doodle to help us best schedule the meetings for this group.  We hope to begin late September/early October, with meetings held in Dover. Responses to the Doodle poll will help us find the best day/time for the first meeting. Please use this link: http://doodle.com/mts6ncf74v77mnf

Best,

Theresa

Theresa Bennett

Education Associate, ELA

Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development

Delaware Department of Education

401 Federal Street, Suite #2

Dover, DE 19901-3639

To be continued…in part 2…coming soon…

To read the prologue to this series, link to The Delaware Illuminati, Prologue

Is The Former Executive Director From Delaware Schools Boards Association Going To Join A Charter School Board?

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Sue Francis recently retired as the Executive Director of the Delaware School Boards Association.  She held the title for many years.  So what are her plans for her retirement?  Apparently she has expressed a desire to join another school board!  But not just any school board, a charter school board!  As most know, charter school board members are not publicly elected, so the board would have to vote themselves on whether or not she can join.  So which charter school is it? Continue reading “Is The Former Executive Director From Delaware Schools Boards Association Going To Join A Charter School Board?”

Charter School Update Presentation To State Board of Education…Hmm…

In the DOE’s Charter School Office presentation to the State Board of Education on Thursday, there is a very interesting tidbit at the end.  They have a section called “Good News” and there are four charter schools listed: Early College High School, East Side, Family Foundations Academy, and Gateway Lab School.  What is the good news?

As well, how are the Delaware Met students doing?  Did they all transition or are some still falling through the cracks?  The answers are here.

Seven Delaware Charters Bow Out of DPAS-II Teacher Evaluation System

Last month at the State Board of Education meeting, former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy announced he approved many charter schools for a minor modification involving their Teacher Evaluation system.  The schools are Positive Outcomes Charter School, Family Foundations Academy, Las Americas ASPIRA, Academia Antonia Alsonso, Early College High School, First State Military Academy, and The Delaware Met.  Oddly enough, the only school I knew that applied for this does not have anything listed on the Delaware DOE website about this.  But Freire Charter School of Wilmington is still on probation status.  Family Foundations Academy had their probation lifted at the same State Board of Education meeting. Family Foundation’s alternate teacher evaluation system will fall under the Delaware Charter Collaborative system that already includes East Side, Prestige Academy, Kuumba, and Thomas Edison.

By Delaware law, the Secretary of Education does not need the assent of the State Board of Education to approve a minor modification, nor are formal meetings of the Charter School Accountability Committee or formal Public Hearings.  But here’s my thing with all this.  One of the questions on the application for a minor modification request is this:

The authorizer will review your most recent Performance Review Reports as part of your application. Discuss the school’s academic performance, compliance with the terms of its charter, and financial viability as measured by the Performance Framework.

Four of these charters have NEVER had a Performance Review since they either opened last year (Academia Antonia Alonso and Early College High School) or this year (First State Military Academy and The Delaware Met).  Granted, the first two charters will have a performance review in the next month or so, but my point is this- should we be changing an established system in favor of an alternate system for charters that have never been put through a performance review?  In my opinion, this should be reserved for schools that have some data behind them to back this up.  One only has to look at the horror show of the past month and a half with The Delaware Met to know they should not be approved for an alternate system for teacher evaluation when they can’t even prove they know how to run a school!  Below are all the school’s applications and the section of Delaware code that allows for this.

9.9 Minor modifications

9.9.1 A minor modification is any proposed change to a charter, including proposed changes to any condition placed on the charter, which is not a major modification. Minor modifications include, but are not limited to:

9.9.1.1 Changes to the name of either the charter school or charter holder; or

9.9.1.2 The first extension of any deadline imposed on the charter school or charter holder by thirty (30) working days or less (or by 15 calendar days in the case of the First Instructional Day); or

9.9.1.3 In the case of a charter school which is open with students in attendance, offering educational services at a site other than, or in addition to, the site approved as part of the school’s charter, when use of the approved site has unavoidably been lost by reason of fire or other casualty as that term is defined in Black’s Law Dictionary; or

9.9.1.4 An increase or decrease in the school’s total authorized enrollment of more than 5%, but not more than 15%, provided further the minor modification request must be filed between November 1st and December 31st and, if approved, shall be effective the following school year; or

9.9.1.5 Alter, expand or enhance existing or planned school facilities or structures, including any plan to use temporary or modular structures, provided that the applicant demonstrates that the school will maintain the health and safety of the students and staff and remain economically viable as provided in 4.4 above; or

9.9.1.6 Any change in the school’s agreement with an educational management organization other than as set forth in 9.4.3 and 9.8.1.1 above; or

9.9.1.7 A change to the current authorized number of hours, either daily or annually, devoted to actual school sessions. Regardless of any proposed change, the school shall maintain the minimum instructional hours required by Title 14 of the Delaware Code; or

9.9.1.8 A change in the terms of the current site facilities arrangements including, but not limited to, a lease to a purchase or a purchase to a lease arrangement; or

9.9.2 The Secretary may decide the minor modification application based on the supporting documents supplied with the application unless the Secretary finds that additional information is needed from the applicant.

9.9.3 The Secretary may refer a minor modification request to the Accountability Committee for review if the Secretary determines, in her/his sole discretion, that such review would be helpful in her/his consideration of the application. If the Secretary refers a minor modification application to the Accountability Committee, she/he may decide the application based on any report from the Committee and the supporting documents related to the application. The applicant for a minor modification shall be notified if the minor modification request has been forwarded to the Accountability Committee. The applicant may be asked to provide additional supporting documentation.

9.9.4 The Secretary may deny a minor modification request if the supporting documentation is incomplete or insufficient provided the applicant has been advised additional information was needed

9.9.5 Upon receiving an application for a minor modification, the Secretary shall notify the State Board of the application and her/his decision on whether to refer the application to the Accountability Committee.

9.9.6 The meeting and hearing process provided for in Section 511(h), (i) and (j) of the Charter School Law shall not apply to a minor modification application even where the Secretary refers the application to the Accountability Committee.

9.9.7 Decisions for minor modifications to a charter may be decided by the Secretary within 30 working days from the date the application was filed, unless the timeline is waived by mutual agreement of the Secretary and the applicant, or in any case where the Secretary, in the sole discretion of the Secretary, deems that it would be beneficial to either refer the matter to the Accountability Committee or to seek advice from the State Board prior to deciding the matter.

Nowhere in this part of Delaware code is there anything about teacher evaluation systems.  But that is covered under the very loose “Minor modifications include, but are not limited to” part of this in 9.9.1.  That is a very major change to a school’s operations, and should be a major modification.  When these schools apply, the applications go to the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit at the Delaware DOE, led by Chris Ruszkowski.  Once they approve it, it goes to the Secretary of Education.  But I’m not surprised the DOE and Secretary Murphy would play fast and loose with state code to get what they want with charters…

Capital School District Loses $330,000 In Title I Funding

David Paulk, with the Dover Post, wrote an article in their newspaper today about how Capital School District is adjusting to the enormous $330,000 in Title I funding cuts.  The article, which does not appear on their online edition, states:

Capital School District officials are dealing with a significant cut in Title IA funding.  The cuts, highlighted in the preliminary budget in June, surprised some educators.

That is a huge amount of money in cuts, and it will affect a great deal of students.  What is the reason for this drastic cut?  It is NOT due to parent opt-outs of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It has to do with the poverty rates set up by the United States Department of Education.  According to DOE spokesperson Alison May in the article:

“The change is mainly due to the starting allocations the districts receive for the geographic districts from the United States Department of Education, which is based on their area poverty rate,” May said. “In other words, Capital saw such a big difference because it had a lower poverty rate this year so it received fewer funds accordingly.”

I reached out to May to get more information about why Capital lost so much and if other districts were affected.  She clarified that Caesar Rodney lost a little bit as well, which the article suggested:

Capital’s allocation this year is down about $343,000; Caesar Rodney’s is down about $48,000 from last year.  Capital’s this year: $3,057,381; CR’s this year: $2,496,552. Will have to check on if any other districts had changes and get back to you on that as I don’t have those figures myself.

I checked on the Delaware DOE profiles section of their website, and statewide, low-income numbers for the state went from 37.8% in FY2014 to 35% in FY2015 which somewhat correlates to Capital’s over 10% in funding cuts.  When I looked at their specific low-income numbers, they went from 52.5% in FY14 to 48.6% in FY15.  For their enrollment figures overall, Capital went from 6,526 in FY13 to 6,695.

So what is going on in Capital?  By looking at their enrollment figures by grade from one year to the next, Capital lost a ton of students at the high school level.  In FY14, they had 601 students in 9th grade.  In FY15, they lost 157 students, cause their low-income rate to drop from 52.6% to 40.3% for those two school years.  It is customary that some students will choice out of district and go to other districts or charter schools in the area.  But there are only two charter high schools in Kent County, Positive Outcomes and Early College High School.

Positive Outcomes has been around for almost twenty years, and they have a fixed amount of seats available.  They also start in 7th grade, and most students tend to finish there once they get into high school.  But Early College High School just opened last fall, so this could account for a massive change in numbers.  Oddly enough, Capital’s special education numbers for students with disabilities from 9th grade to 10th grade went from 23.3% in FY14 to 17.9% for FY15, which is a massive change as well.  The DOE website does not show Early College High School’s enrollment figures on their website in the school profiles section.  However, their September 30th count report, which I posted last November, shows 126 students enrolled at Early College High School in 9th grade last year.  But, Early College High School shows only 9th grade for FY15, and Capital actually increased in student enrollment for 8th graders in FY14 of 475 students to 640 9th graders in FY15.  This can definitely be impacted by Campus Community School only going to 8th grade..

Title I funding is a tricky beast as I am now learning.  What could be happening is Early College High School is getting a lot of Title I students from both Capital and Campus Community while Capital retains more non Title I students.  Holy Cross, a Catholic school in Dover, only goes to 8th grade as well.  Holy Cross is tuition-based, so I would tend to doubt there would be that many Title I students in their enrollment.  Poly-tech actually lost a great deal of low-income students as well.  If anyone else can figure this out, let me know!

Delaware Charter School Compliance and Transparency Report 2015

“Head of School Report: School is completed for this year.  This year should go down in the history books as gone for good and never have history repeat itself.  We need to learn from the past.”

The above quote was found in a Delaware charter school’s board minute notes recently.  About a year ago, I went through all the charters websites and graded them on certain things: board minutes up to date, agendas for next board meetings posted, and monthly financial information posted.  I will be grading each charter based on this information again this year, but I am adding in Citizens Budget Oversight Committee (CBOC) notifications and minutes.  I’m not including charters that haven’t opened yet or charters who got shut down this year cause really, what’s the point?

I can say a lot of the charters have become more compliant and transparent with these in the past year.  But some have not.  I gave a little bit of slack on the board minutes.  A lot of them had a meeting in the past week, so I don’t expect them to get the June minutes up right away.  If you see red, it’s not a major thing, but they need to fix it.  If it’s in BOLD red, they are majorly breaking the law and they need to fix that ASAP!  State law mandates charters put up their monthly financial info up within 15 days of their last board meeting.  As well, you have to have a CBOC committee and meetings.  Two of the charters on here with some big dinks are on probation already so they need to get on that.  Two others are up for charter renewal, so they definitely need to jam on it!

Academia Antonia AlonsoAgenda: no (only has two agendas for two board meetings in past year listed), Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: August 26th, Bonus: has meetings listed through end of 2015, Grade: C-

Academy of Dover– Agenda: Yes, Board minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: July 30th, Grade: B

Campus Community School– Agenda: July 2015, Board minutes: April 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: March 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: not listed, Grade: D

Charter School of Wilmington– Agenda: Yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: not listed, but does indicate no July meeting, Grade: B

Delaware Academy of Public Safety & SecurityAgenda: no, website gives generic agenda for every meeting, Board Minutes: April 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: April 2015, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: none listed, last shows June 2015, Grade: F

Delaware College PrepAgenda: no, Board Minutes: April 2015, CBOC Meetings: no, CBOC Minutes: April 2014, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: none listed, last shows June 2015, Grade F- for Formal Review

Delaware Military Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: January 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: none listed, states meets 4th Monday of the month, Grade: D

Early College High SchoolAgenda: no, Board Minutes: May 2015 (states June meeting had no quorum which is majority of board members present to approve items up for action), CBOC Meetings: no, CBOC Minutes: no, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: none listed but states meets 4th Thursday of the month, Grade: F

Eastside Charter School– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: August 26th, Bonus: Shows anticipated board meeting dates thru June, 2016, Grade: A

Family Foundations Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: April 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: August 26th, Bonus: shows anticipated board meeting dates thru June, 2016, Grade: A

First State Montessori AcademyAgenda: no, Board Minutes: February 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: none listed, shows meets 4th Thursday of the month, Weird Fact: Uses WordPress as their website, the same as Exceptional Delaware…, Grade: D+

Gateway Lab School– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 18th, Bonus: shows anticipated board meeting dates thru June, 2016, Grade: A+

Kuumba Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: none listed, Grade: B

Las Americas Aspiras Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: yes*, next board meeting: none listed, states meets 4th Thursday of each month, *Superstar: Monthly Financial report is excellent, shows both what the DOE wants AND what state appropriations and codes are needed!!!!, Grade: A+

MOT Charter SchoolAgenda: no, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: not sure, shows agenda for June 2015 meeting but last meeting was in May 2013, CBOC Minutes: May 2013, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: none listed, Grade: F

Newark Charter School– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 18th, Bonus: board meetings listed through June, 2016, Grade: A+

Odyssey Charter School– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: August 12th, Grade: A-

Positive Outcomes– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 19th, Bonus: board meetings AND CBOC meetings listed through June 2016, Grade: A+

Prestige Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: no, CBOC Minutes: none listed, website only shows members of CBOC, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: none listed, shows meets 3rd Tuesday of each month, Grade: F

Providence Creek Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: April 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 25th, Bonus: does have all future board meetings through June 2016 on school calendar, Grade: A+

Sussex Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: February 2015, next board meeting: September 16th (no meetings in July or August), Grade: C

Thomas Edison Charter– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 17th, Bonus: Has all board meetings listed through June 2016, Grade A+

There you have it.  The Exceptional Delaware July 2015 Charter School Compliance and Transparency Report.  8 out of 22 need to do some serious damage control quick.  Because once DOE Jenny (as Kilroy calls her) reads this report, she’s going to have some serious questions for some of you!

Oh, I forgot one thing.  The quote up above will be shown later today as part of another article.  Because even though that school wants to forget about the past year, the past is knocking on their door!  More later!

Delaware Charter School Leadership Changes

As the new school year approaches, there is movement afoot among Delaware charter schools.  Some are coming from different states, while others are transferring between different Delaware charters.

William Bennett, a former principal from an elementary school in Media, PA has taken on the role of principal at Delaware Design Lab High School after a shocking exit and settlement from his former school.

Rebeccah Forrest, an assistant principal at EastSide Charter’s middle school is taking over the principal position at Gateway Lab School as Stacey Solomon heads over to St. Ann’s, a parochial private school.

At Providence Creek Academy, Chuck Taylor resumes his former role as head of school due to the bizarre illness Steve Esmond contracted in the Bahamas shortly before he was scheduled to start at PCA.  Taylor left PCA in 2013, went to Campus Community for about six months, and returned to PCA to serve as interim head of school.

Dr. Evelyn Edney, former Dover High School principal, became the principal at Early College High School in Dover effective July 1st.

Former executive director Jack Perry of Prestige Academy in Wilmington has landed a new job as deputy chief of academic enrichment for the Philadelphia School District according to an article in Philly.com.  Cordie Greenlea is the new executive director at Prestige after previous stints in Christina School District and most recently Delcastle Technical High School.

One thing you can say for Delaware charters, they certainly like to mix things up!  As long as we don’t get more like Noel Rodriguez, Sean Moore, or Dr. Tennell Brewington.

The 2015 Charter School Performance Award Winners: Who Won Big, Who Won Some, & Who Got The Shaft

Has the Delaware DOE announced the winners for the Charter School Performance Award by default, on their very own website? In the section on their website for applicants of the Charter School Performance Award, their is a clear list of how much each school received from their application and what they can do with the funds.  Since the state budget only allotted $1 million as opposed to the $1.5 originally requested, this list could have been more extensive.  They did say they would announce the winners today!  Each school listed provides the link to my articles on each school’s application as well as my take and opinion about what they asked for.

Las Americas ASPIRA Academy: $250,000, requested $250,000, no restrictions on special education inclusion model

Newark Charter School: $250,000, requested $400,000, can only use for STEM Laboratory

Campus Community School: $50,000, requested $250,000, can only use for school library project

The Delaware MET: $175,000, requested $250,000, can only use for school start-up costs, not for marketing or promotion or student recruitment

Delaware STEM Academy: $175,000, requested $250,000, same as above

First State Military Academy: $50,000, requested $250,000, same as above

Mapleton Charter School at Whitehall: $50,000, requested $250,000, same as above

Applicants that were eligible but didn’t receive any funds: Early College High School and Great Oaks Charter School (both requested $250,000)

The only applicant that wasn’t eligible at all was Odyssey Charter School due to their probation status during the 2014-2015 academic year.

To read the full list on the DOE Website, go here:

http://www.doe.k12.de.us/Page/2266

Early College High School Charter School Performance Award Application

Another performance award application.  This school has been open for one year and they are applying for a performance award with no data on academic performance…  As well I have grave concerns with forcing 9th and 10th graders to take summer classes the school should be providing as part of their regular academic year curriculum…

In my eyes, this school is still very much an experiment in Delaware.  They have already gone through one principal and significant board member changes.  The jury is still out on this application.  What do you think DOE?  I’m sure you’ll love it with the whole college and career ready lingo and the Smarter Balanced goals of 60% will close the gaps.

Freire Wants To Get Rid Of Specific Interest As Well Due To Non-Compliance With Federal Regulations

Early College High School isn’t the only Delaware charter school that has submitted a major modification request with the Delaware Department of Education to remove specific interest as an enrollment preference.  Freire, scheduled to open in the 2015-2016 academic year, is also requesting this.

Once again, the Charter School Accountability Committee asked a charter school for a copy of the Federal Guidance (posted yesterday in the article before this one).  Is the Delaware DOE not aware of this?  How could they not be?  The National Association of Charter School Authorizers had a presentation with the Delaware State Board of Education earlier this month and they were scheduled to present to the Enrollment Task Force but that meeting was canceled due to inclement weather.

At the Delaware State Board of Education meeting on 2/19/14, during the Charter School Review presentation by the Director of Charter Schools, Jennifer Nagourney, the subject of the modification requests for both schools came up.  She did acknowledge both schools want compliance with Federal Guidance based on applying for Federal start-up grants, but nothing was discussed about this enrollment preference practice in Delaware or the wisdom behind continuing this in light of Federal guidance which suggests otherwise.

To listen to this part of the State Board of Education meeting, please go here: http://dedoe.schoolwires.net/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&ModuleInstanceID=4240&ViewID=E324842B-E4A3-44C3-991A-1E716D4A99E3&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=13013&PageID=1770

Federal Guidance States Specific Interest Is Not An Enrollment Preference For Charters, Delaware In Violation

“A charter school may weight its lottery to give slightly better chances for admission to all or a subset of educationally disadvantaged students if State law permits the use of weighted lotteries in favor of such students.”

Early College High School, the new charter school that opened in Dover, DE this academic year submitted a request for a major modification.  On February 2nd, they had their meeting with the Charter School Accountability Committee.  What happened at this meeting looks like it took the Charter School Accountability Committee completely by surprise.  It turns out, Federal charter school law does not allow specific interest as an enrollment preference for admission to a charter school.

Early College High School’s major modification request was to change their enrollment preference to take out both the specific interest clause and weighted enrollment preference for the children of any of the school’s founders.  The school said they were applying for a Federal grant through the non-SEA Charter School Program, and found out through the US Department of Education that specific interest is not an allowable enrollment preference for any charter school in the country.  They wanted this modification to be in alignment with Federal practices.

I looked for this, and found out that yes, specific interest is not an allowable enrollment preference under any circumstances.  And this is based on Title VI of The Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, and Section 5204 (a) (1) of The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

This is all written out in the Charter School Program non-regulatory guidance document from Fiscal Year 2014, with Section E, pages 17-22 giving all the details.

So now my question would be how in the world would the two charter school authorizers in the State of Delaware not know this?  Those would be the Delaware Department of Education and Red Clay Consolidated School District.  Who gives these authorizers legal guidance?  How many students in Delaware were picked for charter schools under the specific interest clause and how many students were turned away because they did not pick it?

Ironically, Delaware state law grants permission for the specific interest clause.  It allows the following enrollment preferences for charter schools:

  • Students residing within a five-mile radius of the school
  • Students residing within the regular school district in which the school is located
  • Students who have a specific interest in the school’s teaching methods, philosophy or educational focus
  • Students who are at risk of academic failure
  • Children of persons employed on a permanent basis for at least 30 hours per week during the school year by the charter school.Preference may also be given to siblings of current students and students attending a public school that is converted to charter status. Children of founders may also be given preference up to 5 percent of the school’s total student body.

The most noteworthy charter school in Delaware that utilizes the specific interest category is the Charter School of Wilmington.  This is one of the three named schools in the ACLU lawsuit against Delaware Department of Education and Red Clay Consolidated, along with Newark Charter School and Sussex Academy of Arts and Sciences.  Newark Charters School actually grants the school director discretion to pick applicants before the lottery.

Even the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools gave Delaware a bad rating in this category for their national state rankings report for charter schools, found here: http://www.publiccharters.org/get-the-facts/law-database/states/DE/

Stemming out of Delaware’s House Bill 90, State Rep. Kim Williams created the enrollment preference task force which is still in force.  The next meeting will be very interesting given this information.

 

 

Big Question Raised Regarding East Side Charter & Family Foundations Academy “Arrangement”

If East Side Charter School had no board meeting in December, and their January board meeting didn’t occur until January 28th, how in the world did their board approve the loaning out of four board members, their head of school, funds, and teachers to Family Foundations Academy?  Why has nobody else even brought up this question?  By the time the State Board of Education and Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy decided on the fate of FFA, the East Side board took over the FFA board and had their arrangement in place, with Dr. Lamont Browne serving as Executive Director of both schools.  But if the Board never voted on it, who made the decision?

Charles McDowell is the Board President of East Side Charter.  He is now the Board President of Family Foundations Academy.  He is also on the board of Early College High School in Dover.  That’s three charter boards he sits on.  Is he the one calling the shots?  If you read the last Early College High School board minutes (November 2014), it seems like he is in charge even though he isn’t the board president.

While the East Side/FFA arrangement is unprecedented in Delaware, I would think the East Side Board would have to approve a reallocation of funds of that magnitude and what amounts to a loan.  But that is nowhere to be found.  And how did the East Side board members take over?  Was there a quorum of the old FFA members?  Did they vote to add the new members and then resign?  Don’t new board members have to wait a month to vote on new items?  Hmm, more than meets the eye here.  And lest we forget, Kendall Massett at the Delaware Charter Schools Network set up this deal…