Tonight, in a half hour part of their monthly meeting, the Delaware State Board of Education approved seven Delaware charter schools to be renewed. Continue reading
On December 20th, the State Board of Education will decide on seven charter school renewals at their monthly meeting after hearing the decision by Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting. Meanwhile, the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education will decide on Charter School of Wilmington’s charter renewal. Two charters want a ten-year renewal. Two have submitted minor modification requests to decrease enrollment. Yesterday, the Delaware DOE’s Charter School Office released the final reports for all seven charters up for renewal through their office. Continue reading
When you have 24 charter schools in a state, 22 of which are authorized by the state Department of Education, there are going to be years where the amount of charter renewals are going to go up. This fall, the Delaware DOE Charter School Office and the Charter School Accountability Committee are going to have their hands full as seven charter schools go through their renewal process. Continue reading
Every year, the Delaware State Board of Education gets to vote on charter school renewals. This year, there are seven charter schools up for renewal. I believe this is a record and will keep the Charter School Office busy from now until then. But this year could be different for these renewals because of events going on the Delaware Department of Education and the State Board of Education that are beyond their control. Continue reading
In the next round of Delaware charter schools that have salaries over $100,000, we have an eclectic mix that include two Kent County schools and three New Castle county. Two are military schools, one has a pseudo-religious theme, one is a first responder school, and the other has a unique partnership with Delaware State University. In my eyes, if you are going to have a charter school, make it different from the schools around you. And these charters certainly fit the bill! Two of them, as you can see by their demographics, are on my radar of what I view as skewed special populations in some areas. One of them, however, could disappear by the end of June if they don’t get their student enrollment up very soon! Delaware Military Academy is authorized by Red Clay Consolidated School District. ECHS and the two FSMAs opened up after the News Journal came out with their salary article in 2014. Continue reading
Last week, according to Delaware State News and the Smyrna-Clayton Sun-Times, First State Military Academy military instructor Troy McQueen was arrested and charged with three counts of second degree unlawful sexual contact with a student under the age of 18. The charter school dismissed the employee the same day they found out about the incidents. However, what I found next was very disturbing as a parent. Continue reading
On the surface, Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security is toast. But many key players in the Delaware education world are busy making plans to make sure that outcome does not happen. How do you get a school way below enrollment to survive? You partner up and you do it fast! Continue reading
Delaware’s First State Military Academy did a 180 degree turn on their special education services for students with disabilities. For those who believe I hate all charter schools, this is not the case. What I am against is bad decisions by some in the charter community as well as traditional school districts. I have seen some charters who did very bad things manage to do an awesome turnaround. I’ve also seen charters do really great and then see them fall apart. And then there are those charters who are bad and manage to continue their downward spiral. There are some I don’t write anything bad about because there is nothing bad about them.
First State Military Academy just opened last August. Located in Smyrna, the new charter had some special education issues in the beginning of the year. After an initial special education director resigned, and a replacement didn’t work out as planned, the school had to get it together. The school already had a higher than normal special education population. Getting IEPs together for a large influx of students with disabilities, along with opening a new school, has to be a harrowing effort. To that effect, the school hired a former special education teacher from the John Charlton School in the Caesar Rodney School District.
Since then, I’ve heard from multiple sources the school is offering top-notch special education services. One of their biggest challenges was the handling of student accommodations with a technology-based curriculum. For example, IEPs or 504 plans could have an accommodation where a student is only expected to do half of an assignment. In Math, instead of doing 20 problems, they only do 10. When you have a computer doing the scoring, it would take a massive amount of computer code to change existing programs. The school found a way to work around this and make sure students with accommodations are taken into account with the scoring. This allows the students to receive a more accurate grade based on their special education needs.
I’ve also heard IEP meetings are excellent at First State Military Academy. The difference between when they first opened last year and today are night and day. The meetings are organized, the teachers are on board, and parents are much happier.
I’ve heard from many folks about how great Commandant Patrick Galluci and School Instructional Leader Dr. John Epstein are. It looks like they are living up to this reputation. I’m happy the school not only identified their prior special education issues but also acted on them. Doing the right thing is what most of us want. If I am constantly bashing on certain charter schools in Delaware, there are valid reasons for that. Special education is near and dear to me and good news deserves a shout-out!
Because of the very nature of charter schools in Delaware, information about them is much easier to find through the Delaware Department of Education website and other sources. I have written about traditional school districts quite a bit as well on this blog. Most of my issues with Delaware charters surround their enrollment preferences and financial transparency. If I can find something out from their website or through Google, that’s an issue. But the biggest source of information, when it comes to good news, comes from the parents. I am always happy to publish the good stuff as well as the bad. If you know something great going on, let me know. I won’t bite! Unless it is to spread any type of love about standardized testing. You won’t find any support from me on that one!
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
Looks like Delaware Met isn’t the only brand new charter school to open this year that is having problems. Turns out First State Military Academy in Kent County is feeling major opening pains as well. First State Military Academy (FSMA) picked the Innovative Schools inspired “New Tech Network” for their model. You would think with a technology-based program the school would have computers for all the kids. Nope, they are thirty short. Oops! Innovative Schools website describes this “New Tech Network as:
New Tech Network (NTN) is a non-profit school development organization that works with districts to build and sustain innovative K-12 public schools. NTN works to create a rigourous and engaging school experience that features the intense use of Project-Based Learning and technology to establish a positive and engaging school culture. In the seventeen years since its founding, the network has grown to 133 K-12 schools in twenty-three states and Australia. Innovative Schools has established partnerships with schools like Delaware New Tech Academy in Seaford and First State Military Academy in Clayton, to help bring the first New Tech Network model schools to Delaware. Learn More About New Tech
But the bigger problem has to do with special education. When FSMA opened they received forty students with disabilities. As a new school and students that transferred, the school has to redo all those IEPs. They have one dual-certified teacher to handle all forty of these students on top of being the one to handle all these IEPs. And here is the kicker- they have to be completed by October 30th. In five days! What is it with these charter schools that don’t anticipate large populations of special needs students? The state average is 13% and rising. Like Delaware Met, they didn’t count on this at all. It comes with the package, and the State Board of Education, the Charter School Office and the Exceptional Children Resources Group should be making sure all new charters have their ducks in a row with this kind of thing.
With this revelation coming out, I feel obligated to reveal a story I wrote about FSMA in the summer, but I never named the school. Yes, this was the school that had a special education coordinator that pretended to be on the IEP Task Force last year. This coordinator quit before school started. I wonder why?
As well, I’m hearing several students are having a VERY difficult time with the curriculum at this school. Some are failing. While these issues aren’t at the level Delaware Met is having, I would say they are very serious. Time to add another one to the pile Delaware DOE?
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.
9.9.1 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:
220.127.116.11 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
18.104.22.168 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
22.214.171.124 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
126.96.36.199 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
9.9.2 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.
9.9.5 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…
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
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:
The other day I wrote on article on First State Military Academy’s application for a Charter School Performance Fund. In this article, whoever wrote the application referred to the school’s location being in Camden, DE. This WAS A TECHNICAL ERROR. The school is located in Clayton, DE, as it was always scheduled to be. My apologies for my comments associated with this in the article, but many new charters have switched locations prior to opening, so it didn’t seem like a stretch for this to occur again. I have updated the article to take out this part.
Another school that hasn’t even opened yet applying for more money! Based on performance! Yay! Another school promoting this New Tech Network system. The other one was Delaware STEM Academy. Okay, they are on my radar now.. And we have more salaries as part of this application…
So if they want to enroll in this network their curriculum is essentially based on, but this would only cover the first year, what happens next year? Cause you can’t get this award two years in a row…
I would think a military-based school would have already bought a $2000 sound system to bark orders at kids, but no, that’s included in here as well…
UPDATED, 7/1/15, 1:19pm: I took out the part in my write-up concerning the change in location of this school to Camden, Delaware. This was a technical error on the applicant’s part, and the school is in Clayton, at the same location it has always been. My apologies for any concerns about this!