House Bill 269 Would Significantly Change School Choice In Delaware

House Bill 269, sponsored by Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams, was introduced today and assigned to the House Education Committee.  The legislation deals with school choice and offers some substantial changes to how Delaware deals with school choice.  This bill is not expected to get a vote tonight and will most likely be looked at in January of 2018.  While I have not fully read the bill, I did take a cursory glance and I like a lot of aspects to it.

Charter School 5 Mile Radius Bill Gets Vote In Delaware Senate Today

The very controversial HS1 for House Bill 85 gets a full Senate vote today.  This is one of the thorniest education bills in the Delaware General Assembly this session.  It would remove the 5 mile radius enrollment preference for charter schools but there is a loophole.  For the Christina School District, which has a non-continguous section in Wilmington, those students would not get a preference to get into Newark Charter School.  That is Delaware’s largest charter school.

It was released from the Senate Education Committee two weeks ago but not without controversy.  In the House, it prompted a long debate over the issue last month.  Those who opposed the bill alleged it would cause even more de facto segregation of Wilmington students.

Sussex Montessori School, If Approved, Will Bring A Second Charter School To Sussex County

The Delaware Department of Education received one application for a new charter school in the 2018-2019 school year: Sussex Montessori School.  For the parents of students in Kindergarten to 6th grade who are interested in the “Montessori Approach”, this potential second charter school in Sussex County, Delaware could change the face of many surrounding districts, including Laurel, Seaford, and even Indian River.  By putting an enrollment preference of wanting a Montessori approach, this school could already filter out some of the surrounding students due to a lack of understanding of Montessori methods.  Many feel First State Montessori Academy, which has a top priority preference for those interested in Montessori despite having a five-mile radius, is not balanced well with high-needs students in the area.

Where this application loses me is quoting the Rodel Foundation and Vision 2025, as well as using standardized test scores as a barometer for student achievement.  The application was submitted by Montessori Works, a non-profit 501c3 corporation.  They have received initial funding from the Longwood Foundation, the Welfare Foundation, and Discover Bank.  If approved, the plans call for a $4.4 million dollar 32,000 square foot facility on ten acres of land between Bridgeville and Laurel which the group expects funding by the above three entities or a financial institution.

I didn’t recognize many of the names with the founding group of this school, but a couple stuck out.  Trish Hermance was the Head of School for Campus Community until 2013.  Brett Taylor was involved with the Delaware STEM Academy which failed to open due to low enrollment and charter revocation by the State Board of Education.  But you can read the resumes of all the founding group and support.  Their feasibility study shows an initial student population of 300 students in the first year  (2018) and 450 students by 2023.

Last month, the Christina Board of Education voted 6-1 to keep the Montessori program in their district despite shrinking enrollment due to First State Montessori Academy in Wilmington a couple of years ago.  There are currently no Montessori programs in Kent County but the Jefferson School in Georgetown exists.  With that being said, the class size once children get out of pre-school and Kindergarten is only six to eight students per class.  It is not considered a good school by many parents in the area according to an anonymous source.  Typically, as in years past, the State Board of Education would vote on final approval at their April board meeting.

Delaware Enrollment Preference Task Force Final Report Released Today

Coming in at 489 pages, this is a mammoth report!  I know Delaware State Representative Kim Williams has worked on this for a long time.  Congratulations to all the members of the task force for their hard work with this group.  I only managed to get to one of the meetings, but I really wish I could have gone to all of them.  This task force came out of Delaware House Bill 90.  Its mission was to take a very hard look at how Delaware charter schools, vocational schools, and magnet schools select their students.  I haven’t even been able to come close to finishing this, but it is well worth the time.

Reader Takes On Charter School of Wilmington Placement Tests & Specific Interest Enrollment Preference

As a part of the 4th most-read article on this blog, a commenter who I don’t always agree with and doesn’t always agree with me found common ground on an issue that comes up time and time again: Just how great is Charter School of Wilmington (CSW) when they stack the odds in their favor?  For those who may not know the acronym, DMA is Delaware Military Academy.  This is what “Education Opinions” wrote:

I want to start by saying that I personally am an advocate for a lot of the charters in the Wilmington area, but the attitudes of Justpassingthru and RationalStudent exemplify why people have an issue with the Charter School of Wilmington. I disagree with Kevin on many things and have even participated in his “Correct the Blogger” challenge in the past, but his comment below that starts with “you asked, you shall receive” is spot on. Having a placement test before enrollment is a huge red flag because, as he said, this is not a private school. Charter schools SHOULD be created and sustained by serving the needs of THEIR COMMUNITY, ideally using learning models that traditional schools can’t or won’t use. I don’t doubt that CSW has an excellent math and science program, but many traditional schools do as well. CSW is really not doing anything that other schools aren’t doing, they are just doing it with ONLY the “top students.”

People who truly care about educational equity in their community believe that all children can succeed and be taught given the right environments and supports, but CSW’s enrollment practices basically say they are not willing or able to support those who are not already testing in the very high percentile of students. Having a charter school in Wilmington that has demographics SO different from the city of Wilmington is a MAJOR problem. I have met with staff from CSW before about the school opening its doors to a more diverse student population and I have had staff look me in the eye and say “We are diverse, we are over 15% Asian.” “Diversity” does not mean “one non-white race or ethnicity at your school.” It means MANY different groups, and it is NOT just limited to race and ethnicity. In some Wilmington charter schools it can be difficult to achieve ideal levels of diversity because often times the schools mirror the demographics of the city, but CSW does not even do that which is an even bigger problem than those schools who are mostly made up of minority students. I have attended open houses at CSW with potential students and I understand that CSW students work EXTREMELY hard for their success; the classes they are taking and the projects they are required to do are very impressive – my problem is not that CSW exists or that their expectations are high, it is that it is set up in such a way to only admit a specific type of student. Why shouldn’t all students have access to this type of program if it is really so great?

I will end by saying that it is ridiculous for people who are sticking up for CSW to try to throw Cab, DMA, Conrad, and other schools under the bus in the same breath. People like me who are against CSW’s enrollment processes are well aware of which other schools have equally, if not more, discriminatory practices. (Although in my opinion, DMA should not even be a part of this conversation because that is a VERY different situation as a military-focused program has a whole other set of rules and regulations that I would imagine are very similar to the actual military.) We know Cab and other schools are discriminatory as well, but it is interesting for pro-CSW people to point that out – FYI, it doesn’t help your case.

All I can say is thank you to Education Opinions for pointing out brilliantly what the reality of CSW’s enrollment really is.

My Thoughts On The WEAC Report: Charter Love & Not Enough For Special Needs Students

Having read the entire Wilmington Education Advisory Committee’s Final Report, I’m left with more questions than answers.  Going into this, I did not expect the report to solve all the education problems in Delaware, let alone Wilmington.  The report has lots of data and many letters from the usual groups involved in education in Delaware.

My first impression: This report fails to recognize the damaging effect charter schools have on traditional school districts.  Funding has been stripped from school districts while charters have mostly been allowed to flourish not only with state and local funds, but also numerous donations by companies such as The Longwood Foundation and Innovative Schools.

One thing I was happy to see was this:

“Converting all Wilmington schools to charter schools authorized by a newly created Wilmington Charter District is neither desirable on educational grounds nor practical on political grounds.  Charter schools are playing a central and growing role in Wilmington public education.  However, Wilmington children require the full array of educational options that is possible only with a continued reliance on district, charter, and vo-tech schools.”

Amen!  I know Tony Allen and many members of WEAC have a deep and abiding love of all things charter, but to have them take over would be tantamount to a disaster of epic proportions.  But there is quite a bit in the report showing why charters will continue to grow in Wilmington with no anecdotal proof of how they came about these figures other than growing trends.  If the charter school moratorium for new charter applications becomes law, how are they basing the 2017 numbers and beyond?

Another example of a misleading report comes from the section showcasing a report by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.  This group attended the last Enrollment Preference Task Force meeting and advised the committee that charter schools should not have specific interest as an enrollment preference unless it serves students who need it the most: Title I, low-income, minority, students with disabilities, ELL, and others in those groups.  The WEAC report did not mention this very specific item which helped widen many of the gaps between schools in Wilmington and parts of Sussex County.  It did touch on certain “enrollment preferences” and recommends this be adapted to best national practices.

What this report fails to do is to bolster traditional school districts.  It seems geared towards getting more kids into charters but at the same time calling for more collaboration between the traditional school districts, charters and vo-techs.  This is dangerous territory to plant your flag in.

There is very little about students with disabilities in the report as well.  There are a few mentions, but absolutely nothing about what will be a growing trend and how to account for this.  I imagine groups and committees will spin out of this report, but it is a large enough issue that I feel it should have been addressed in this report because it is a priority in our state.

The report calls for a Charter Consortium, with more power than the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  This consortium would include all Wilmington charters to share best practices and have one organization perform financial and management duties.  While this would not be a KIPP-like takeover as I have predicted in the past, it could grant charters in the state even more power than they have now, which is very extensive and carries a lot of political muscle among our legislators.

I do have reservations concerning Red Clay being the sole district with Wilmington local schools.  I have not seen any indication that Brandywine would take any of these schools, so I have to assume Red Clay would bear the brunt of the consolidation.  Christina and Colonial would be out, and Red Clay would be the sole traditional school district.  My thought is this: they don’t do a good job with the three charters in their district so how can they add on a large number of  schools and be able to effectively run all these schools?

The devil is in the details, as they say, and I expected more in the details in this report.  What comes of this will be the key, and I anxiously await what happens next.  But the mystery behind all of this is the national issue of ESEA authorization.  If something changes on a Federal level in regards to curriculum and standardized testing, it could change many aspects of this report and what comes next.  I would urge the legislators in Delaware to show restraint until what happens on a national level is determined first.

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.

 

 

Why Am I Always Picking On Delaware Charter Schools?

The obvious answer to my title would be “because it’s easy”.  It’s not like I create these stories.  They do it themselves.  I just bring them to light for all of Delaware to see.  Take Prestige Academy, and their board meeting at a tavern where they didn’t have a quorum and voted on stuff anyways.  I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.  I knew Jack Perry was “resigning”, so I thought I would see what their board minutes say.  I wasn’t looking for anything sinister.  By the time I got to their board minutes, and I saw what I saw, it was just another example of a Delaware charter school doing whatever the hell they want, regardless of the law.

I get a great deal of flack on Kilroy’s Delaware in the comments section when I say something negative about charters.  There’s one guy named Publius.  You would think the charters could no wrong, and because the ability for “choice” is out there, it is the charters God-given right for any type of pre-assessment before a prospective student is selected.  Another guy, named lastDEconservative, will side with Publius every chance he gets.  They have their opinion, and I have mine.  But because I want to try to help people, I have a big head and I won’t agree with anyone’s opinion but my own.  Or so they say.  I think they are hoping I will just go away, but that just encourages me to fight harder. Continue reading

DE Community Legal Aid Disabilities Law Program Needs Public Input NOW!!!!

The Disabilities Law Program of Community Legal Aid has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights alleging that the State of Delaware permits the charter schools to engage in practices that reduce the number of students with disabilities, students of color and students whose first language is not English who attend the schools.  They are looking for individuals to add to their complaint this month.  They are looking for students of color or students with disabilities who were denied entry to a charter school or did not apply to a specific charter school because of what they had heard about the school, and for families who did not apply to high performing charter schools because they did not know they were public schools.   They are also looking for students who have been pushed out of charters because of their disability needs.

If you or your friends have had these experiences, please contact Marissa Band,  (302) 575-0600, ext. 228, or Richard Morse, (302) 654-5326, ext. 103, for possible inclusion in the complaint.

 

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

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

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

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

Students With Disabilities At Most Delaware Charters Do Poorly @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @DeStateBoardEd #netde #eduDE

Students with disabilitities seem to do very bad on standardized testing at most Delaware charter schools. As these results show, students with disabilities at the bulk of charter schools in Delaware fit into two categories: they do poorly on standardized testing or the charters don’t have enough special education students to even count in the numbers. Both of these are extreme issues in this state. Granted, not every single charter school can cater to specific disabilities based on an advanced curriculum, such as Charter School of Wilmington. While others may focus solely on complex disabilities, such as Gateway. But somewhere in the middle are the bulk of these schools. This shows a clearer picture of how application enrollment preference can and does boost the academic numbers for some schools.

You will find each charter school in Delaware below, with the academic ratings for students with disabilities. For those that didn’t have enough students, this is based on Needs Based Funding categories for special education. There either weren’t enough students or it fell in a 15 or below status which eliminates them from the state numbers. I did earlier articles when I first started Exceptional Delaware grading each school in Delaware for special education populations. Comparing those reports with this is very interesting. I will also list the grades those schools received after the names of each school from those articles.

The actual academic framework reports for each school are very complex because certain schools didn’t make the growth targets between the Fall and Spring DCAS tests. A school like Charter School of Wilmington, which is ridiculous given the other numbers. But then you have other schools that met those growth targets, but the school was still rated does not meet. But in conjunction with the grades I gave the schools for special education, questions do emerge about how well the students are being accommodated. Some do it great, but most of them seem to be missing the boat .

Academy of Dover, Math and ELA: Does Not Meet, Overall School: Does Not Meet (rated Meets previous two years) (got D grade for special education population)

Campus Community, Math and ELA: Does Not Meet, Overall School: Meets (rated Does Not Meet previous two years) (got C grade for special education population)

*Charter School of Wilmington, Math and ELA: N/A, doesn’t have more than 15 students w/special education in each NBF category, Overall: Meets (rated Exceeds previous two years) (got F grade for special education population) *CSW is known to have more rigorous studies in science and math and is known for having a more gifted student population

Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security, Math and ELA: Does Not Meet, Overall: Does Not Meet (3rd Year in a row) (got F grade for special education population)

Delaware College Preparatory Academy, Math and ELA: N/A, doesn’t have more than 15 students w/special education in each NBF category, Overall: Does Not Meet (Does not meet previous year, Far Below Standards year before) (got F grade for special education population)

Delaware Military Academy, Math: Does Not Meet, ELA: Exceeds, Overall: Meets (3rd Year in a row) (got F grade for special education population)

Eastside Charter School, Math: Does Not Meet, ELA: Does Not Meet, Overall: Meets (was Does Not Meet previous two years) (got A+ for special education population)

Edison, Thomas Charter School, Math: Does Not Meet, ELA: Far Below Standards, Overall: Does Not Meet (was Does Not Meet previous year, Meets year before) (got F grade for special education population)

Family Foundations, Math and ELA: Exceeds, Overall: Meets (Meets previous year, Does not meet year before) (got F grade for special education population)

*Gateway, Math and ELA: Does Not Meet, Overall: Far Below Standard (Far Below previous two years) (got A++ for special education population) *Gateway is a special needs school serving a very high population of autistic and complex special needs students.

Kuumba Academy Charter School, Math and ELA: N/A, doesn’t have more than 15 students in each NBF category, Overall: Meets (was Meets previous year, Exceeds year before) (got F for special education population grade)

Las Aspiras ASPIRA Academy, Math and ELA: N/A, doesn’t have more than 15 students in each NBF category, Overall: Meets (Meets previous year, Does not meet year before) (got F for special education population)

MOT Charter School, Math and ELA: Does Not Meet, Overall: Meets (Meets previous two years) (got F for special education population)

Moyer Charter School:

Math and ELA: Far Below Standard, Overall: (previous year Does Not Meet, was under K12 Management year prior after formal review, currently under Formal Review again) (got A++ for special education population)

Newark Charter School, Math and ELA: Exceeds Standards, Overall: Meets (Exceeds previous two years) (got F for special education population)

Odyssey Charter School,  Math: Exceeds Standards, ELA: Meets, Overall: Meets (Exceeds previous year, Meets year before) (got F for special education population)

Positive Outcomes, Math and ELA: Meets, Overall: Meets (Does Not Meet previous two years) (got A++ for special education population)

Prestige Academy, Math: Far Below Standards, ELA: Does Not Meet, Overall: Does Not Meet (3rd Year In A Row) (got A+ for special education population)

Providence Creek, Math and ELA: Does Not Meet (Insufficient Number of Students, Results Not Reported), Overall: Does Not Meet (Meets previous two years) (got F for special education population)

Reach Academy, Math and ELA: Far Below Standard (Insufficient Number of Students, Results Not Reported), Overall: Does Not Meet (Far Below Standards previous year, Does Not Meet year before) (got F for special education population)

Sussex Academy, Math and ELA: N/A, doesn’t have more than 15 students in each NBF category, Overall: Exceeds Standard (3rd year in a row) (got F for special education population)

Number of Charters with N/A Status: 4

Charters in danger due to three years in a row of does not meet or below: Reach Academy, Prestige Academy, Moyer (already on formal review), Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, Delaware College Preparatory Academy

 

Delaware Special Needs or Minorities Parents: I Need Information #netde @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de

If you have ever applied for a charter school in the state of Delaware, and the application was denied, and you feel it was based on your child being either a student with special needs or a minority, I want to hear from you.  If your child was accepted to a charter school, but you were then told by the charter school they could not accommodate your child’s needs, I want to hear from you.  If your child was ever “counseled out” from a charter school due to behavior issues and your child had special education, and the result was you pulled your child out and sent the child back to the local public school district, I want to hear from you.  If your child took a test for entrance and did well on it, but the application was still denied, I want to hear from you.  If you feel your child was put in a lower bracket of special education at a charter school and you knew there should be more services provided for your child, I want to hear from you.  If your special needs child was suspended more than ten times in a school year, or was expelled, I want to hear from you.  All information is confidential, and I may want to speak with you.  Please leave your name, email and contact number.  Information can be sent to kevino3670@yahoo.com

 

Bored With The Board of Ed! Welcome to Delaware Penny Schwinn! Please Read Up On Our State! #netde #eduDE #edchat @BadassTeachersA @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_DE

The Delaware Board of Education meeting yesterday was full of controversy and shock.

I attended about an hour and a half of the Delaware Board of Education meeting yesterday. When I arrived, a gentleman from the American Heart Association was thanking the Board for their support. I sat next to a familiar face who was cutting out items for his classroom with a pair of scissors. I introduced myself to Mike Matthews who I had been in contact with on social media recently. I asked if he was giving public comment, and he said I just missed it but to definitely listen to the digital audio recording when it is available. Throughout the meeting, Matthews and I had continuous looks of shock and awe with the comments coming from not only the Board, but members of the Office of Accountability and Performance.

Secretary of Education Mark Murphy seemed very upset about the recent report on how 0% of teachers in Delaware were not ineffective. He didn’t seem to think this was the reality in Delaware. But we all know this will change in a year when the Smarter Balanced Scores come out, which the state has already said they are aware student scores will plummet, and teacher evaluations will be based on these scores.

The Board went through their motions, and we arrived at the Performance and Accountability Presentation. Penny Schwinn is the new Chief Officer of Accountability and Performance for the Delaware DOE. After Assessment Director Brian Touchette gave his reasons for why there are gaps in performance testing between different subgroups, and why charters weren’t included in the Performance and Accountability Presentation (because they have their own performance framework arrangement with the state of Delaware), Schwinn gave a rather enlightening and distorted presentation of African-American students and students with disabilities.

For children with disabilities, she claimed the reasons for the performance gaps in DCAS scores was attributable to the following factors: Litigation at a district level distracted teachers from being able to give adequate special education accommodations, high teacher turn-over and a limited hiring pool in Delaware for quality special education teachers compared to other states. She did say there is a new strategy of looking at IEPs in Delaware, and that is to target the performance of students with disabilities. Which is, as we all know, the coming standards-based IEPs in Delaware. She did recognize that dual credentials for special education teachers provide “expertise and knowledge” in the classroom. What she failed to mention, in Delaware and across America, many special education teachers are leaving the profession due to upcoming teacher evaluations which will be based on student test scores. Many special ed teachers fear losing their jobs, so they are leaving the profession. Who will replace all these teachers with this expertise and knowledge when they are driven out or quit?

Schwinn expressed her interest in Student-Based Plans, which are IEPs, but for regular students. This is one of the goals of Rodel’s Vision 2025, to do away with special education and all students get their own version of IEPs. This just supports my fear and theories of the future of special education. See https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/07/28/special-education-in-america-where-is-it-going-spread-this-link-all-over-reblog-netde-edude-delaware-usedgov/

Schwinn went on to talk about African-American student performance in Delaware. She said they expect high performance from all students, and this is driven through PLCs and site leadership. PLC is Professional Learning Community, which emphasizes shared leadership, community-based work groups, and learning over teaching. Schwinn wants to create strategies to prevent downward trends among African-American students in Delaware. She said there is a low expectation for African-American students from teachers “across the board”. At this point, Board of Ed Member Gregory Coverdale asked Schwinn if she felt the rising violence and murders in Wilmington was causing an impact in classroom environment in that area, to which she responded “That isn’t necessarily a hurdle to overcome”. For the three African-American members of the Board of Education, the looks on their faces said it all immediately after her response.

Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, the President of the Board of Education, said the following based on an article from WDDE today: “From those of us who are in under-represented groups, we deal with this often,” said Gray, who is African-American. “I’m not quite sure what to say about low expectations and cultural mindset,” she said. “How do you address that? A shift of culture takes 20 years, as they say, at least 10.” – See more at: http://www.wdde.org/66555-state-education-officials-seek-reasons-lack-progress-narrowing-achievement-gap#sthash.ii0NJYD3.dpuf

It is obvious Schwinn, who has been in her role for two months after leaving Sacramento, CA, needs to do a bit more research on Delaware. To think the issues of crime in Wilmington won’t have an impact on the classroom is foolish and naïve. To insult issues of poverty, crime and discrimination shows an apparent lack of the true reality in Wilmington. This is definitely a hurdle to overcome Penny Schwinn, and to continue to ignore this reality will only make the problem worse. As the Chief Of Accountability and Performance in Delaware, you need to look at ALL aspects of environment and how they impact the classroom.

For students with disabilities, Schwinn needs to recognize why special education teachers are leaving the profession, and that is mainly due to forced compliance with Common Core standards being shoved down their throats. Children are more than test scores, and the sooner the DOE realizes that, the better education and special education in Delaware will be. Litigation is rising in Delaware because of this education reform, not in spite of it.

The fact that charter schools in Delaware were not included in this presentation speaks volumes. To not include them ignores the impact charter schools have had on students with disabilities and minorities in Delaware, especially in the Wilmington area. Certain charter schools in our state have specific enrollment requirements that discriminates against low-income minorities and special needs children. The easy excuse for this by ignorant people is that children with disabilities are “low performers”. I think the Exceptional Children Group in the DOE is on the right track in correcting this position, but they need to realign their priorities in how to go about this.

But I can see how you would come to those conclusions based on your resume: http://transparentchristina.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/meet-the-new-chief-accountability-and-performance-officer-for-the-delaware-doe-more-choice-accountability-and-tfa-straight-up-gap-closing-bullshit/

And yet, your one tweet twitter account from 2010 tells a completely different story: “@EnchantmentAZ As a teacher, role model and advocate for kids from low income communities, my mom inspired me to teach and be a foster mom.”

You are not currently advocating for these children. You may want to recheck your roots and be a part of the solution, not the problem.

Special Education Statistics Part III: Kent County Publics vs Charters #netde #eduDE @delaware_gov

Kent County is a unique place.  It is considered part of “slower lower”, but the capital of the state is in Dover.  All the major decisions about the state occur here, even though the majority of the population lives in Newcastle County.  The schools in Kent County are also unique.

Seven school districts are in Kent County.  Capital, Caesar Rodney, Lake Forest, and Polytech are all within the borders of Kent County.  Smyrna overlaps into Newcastle County, while Woodbridge and Milford share district space with both Kent and Sussex .  There are only four charter schools in Kent County: Academy of Dover, Campus Community, Providence Creek and Positive Outcomes.  Of the four charters, their special education population is as follows:

Academy of Dover: 8.4% (26 out of 308)

Campus Community School: 9% (37 out of 411)

Providence Creek Academy: 4.4% (31 out of 697)

Positive Outcomes: 63.3% (76 out of 120)

Positive Outcomes is the exception to the rule when it comes to special education in Delaware.  The school primarily serves students with special needs and behavior issues, so it is no surprise they would fully accommodate in those situations.  The other three…that’s different.  Both Academy of Dover and Campus Community have a high percentage of lower income and African-American students, so in that aspect, it doesn’t appear charter school enrollment preference affects income or race.  But with a state average of 13.5-13.9% for special education, those numbers are much lower than their public school peers.  So where are all the special needs children going?  Certainly not Polytech, a vocational high school (the only school in that district).  Their average is 9.3% (112 out of 1,206).  So this would leave the public schools to deal with this student population.

Caesar Rodney: 13.6% (1,046 out of 7,677)

Capital: 17% (997 out of 6,442)

Lake Forest: 13% (479 out of 3,687)

Milford: 12.3% (507 out of 4,168)

Smyrna: 13.5% (697 out of 5,163)

I’m not going to include Woodbridge since most of the school district is within Sussex County.

So we can definitely see the public schools are taking in much higher populations of special needs children than the charter schools in the area.  Why is this?  Pretty much the same answer as the rest of the charters in the state.  They don’t want them.  This is why they put sections on their applications  with questions like “Does your child have an IEP” or “Does your child have any special education needs”.  They want to weed them out.  Not including Positive Outcomes obviously, the other three charter schools have a total of  7 complex special education students, and they are all at Academy of Dover.  Both Campus Community and Providence Creek Academy have NONE.  I guess autistic children aren’t welcome there.  What does FAPE stand for again?

Smyrna School District seems to take the bulk of special needs children in the area.  The majority of students that go to Providence Creek reside in Smyrna, and then Capital.  Since Providence Creek can only accommodate 26 special needs students, but the other 671 are “normal”, that must be an acceptable sacrifice for them.  But hey, they should feel lucky.  Their special education population actually went down from 4.7% in 2013 to 4.4% in 2014.  Less burden for them.

Further south in Kent County are the  Caesar Rodney, Milford and Lake Forest districts.  Some children from there go to the charters in Kent County, but the further south you go the less likely this is.  Their special education numbers seem to be near the state average.

Capital School District’s special education numbers are much higher than everyone else.  They also have the Kent County Community School, which serves the Delaware Autistic Program (DAP) for autistic students in grades K-12.

No new charter schools have opened in Kent County in many, many years, and that’s probably a good thing.  I wouldn’t mind at all if Positive Outcomes opened a K-6 school.  Maybe they can take over one of the other schools.  In the meantime, parents of Kent County, I would be very wary about sending any special needs child to a charter school in Dover, unless it is Positive Outcomes.  I have heard from parents who let one or two of their kids stay at a charter school but they send their special needs child to a public school.  This must be a huge pain in the ass for these families.  The charter school should be more than capable of handling a special needs child.  The big lingering question is this- why aren’t they?

 

 

Delaware DOE: The Eye of the Hurricane in Special Education

In a hurricane, everything is wild and chaotic.  Winds are fierce, rain is massive, and destruction looms.  Many people flee, but some stay hoping for the best.  Homes are destroyed, roads are flooded, and lives are frequently lost.  In the middle of a hurricane, everything is calm.  It can sometimes be sunny, and rain may not be present and it can be viewed as a moment of peace.  The eye is the center of the hurricane, and everything that happens is a result of the eye.  This is the Delaware Department of Education in regards to special education. Continue reading