State Board Of Education Next Week: Academy Of Dover Renewal, WEIC, Priority & Focus Schools, ESSA, & Some Must-Read Educator Regulations

The Delaware State Board of Education meeting on Thursday, December 15th has some very interesting presentations and action items!  This could be Delaware Secretary of Education’s second to last meeting.  He announced today that the earliest he would leave his position would be January 18th.  More details on that, as well as his replacement, later in the article!

The most interesting presentation, in my opinion, will be the one about priority and focus schools.  Representatives from Red Clay, Christina, Capital and Laurel will give updates on how their “turnaround” schools are doing.  This includes the seven priority schools- three in Red Clay, three in Christina, and one in Laurel.  I pray this isn’t a repeat of the meeting last December when State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray had a meltdown over the Christina priority schools.  I would tend to doubt it since that all got sorted out in the middle of the WEIC/State Board fiasco last February.

Speaking of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, it looks like someone from WEIC will give a presentation on where their redistricting plan is six months after the Delaware General Assembly did not pass legislation to fund the plan but instead gave them an extra year in the process.  From what I’m hearing, there is some discontent on the main WEIC group and some tension is building.  I reported last week Christina was getting a facilities evaluation for all their buildings in Wilmington.  Tony Allen, the Chair of WEIC, did respond to me and stated this was part of the WEIC process from Senate Bill 300 but did not touch on the exact wording of the amendment on that bill.  This is a VERY gray legal area in terms of the wording for this facilities review to even happen, but once again, this is Delaware.

We will get the usual monthly update on how things are going with the Every Student Succeeds Act.  I expect a lot of head tilts from Gray as she tries to understand the new timeline.  I pray someone brings up Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Secretary of Education pick.  Please, make it happen!  I can say the ESSA Discussion Group will meet at the end of January but exact dates have not been determined yet.

Academy of Dover gets their charter renewal vote at this meeting.  I expect the State Board will approve it.  There will be some talk about getting their enrollment up, but it will pass.  Most likely a unanimous vote.  No drama here.

This meeting will be a Regulation bonanza though!  Regulations are a very tricky beast.  When you look at just the description for the changes on an agenda, the true meat is in the actual regulatory changes.  And there are tons and tons of changes for Regulations 1503 and 1510.  Teachers, especially new teachers, will want to read these!  But other staff in schools will also want to read these, especially counselors and nurses.  Other regulation action items deal with Secretary-only ones that actually repeal old regulations dealing with school nutrition.  A couple of regulations dealing with surrogates for IEP students above the age of 18 are also getting a State Board vote.

There are no major personnel changes.  Secretary Godowsky’s Associate Secretary, Candice Brooks, will be moving to the Title I Family and Community Engagement area as an Education Associate.  This signals a shift of employees coming at the Delaware Dept. of Education.  Secretary Godowsky WILL be leaving.  The question is when.  The new Secretary may not start right at the beginning of Carney’s administration if they have to facilitate an exit from their current Delaware job.  Yes, the new Secretary will be from Delaware.  Godowsky did confirm that today (not that anyone thought otherwise).  So Godowsky has publicly stated he will stick around during that transition.  The new Secretary of Education announcement could come as early as this weekend but most likely next week, along with all of Carney’s Secretary picks.  While this is not official, I am hearing the Secretary of Education pick is down to two people.  All I can say is that they were on my poll last week.  I will say no more!  But Carney could make other sweeping changes to the DOE besides the supreme leader.  The Governor picks the President of the State Board of Education, the Executive Director of the State Board of Education, and pretty much all the leadership positions at the DOE.  Will Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, Donna Johnson, and Michael Watson survive the new administration?

If you are in Dover next Thursday, and have some time to kill between 1pm to 5pm (or 7pm if Dan Rich gives the WEIC Presentation, just kidding Dan!), come on over to the Townsend Building and bring popcorn!  Maybe Governor Markell will pop over to give a farewell speech to the State Board!

 

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Delaware DOE Will Severely Punish More Brandywine, Christina & Red Clay Schools Based On Smarter Balanced Scores

Wilmington

As part of a Freedom of Information Act request, the Delaware Department of Education named several new schools that would have become Priority or Focus Schools in an email to the United States Department of Education if the Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF) went into full effect this year.  It won’t, but it gives a very good sign of the entire purpose of this “school report card” scheme: more inner-city schools getting false labels and “turnaround status” based on high-stakes standardized test scores.  One school, far away from Wilmington, which was highly praised by Governor Markell and the DOE a couple of years ago for their reduction of proficiency gaps would have been a Focus School this year because of the increase in their proficiency gap.  Another school that would have become a priority school is already slated to close at the end of this year.  Again, I will stress these schools (aside from the ones with an asterisk) have not been named but would have been if the DSSF went into effect this year.

ReynaPotlFocusPriority1

Wow!  That is a lot of information from the former Director of Accountability at the Delaware DOE!  This was part of the Delaware DOE’s ESEA waiver request they sent to the US DOE at the end of November last year.  The State Board had just approved the participation rate penalty in the DSSF at their November meeting.  What wasn’t revealed was this list of schools that would have been named Focus or Priority…

ReynaPotlFocusPriority2

Four of the schools labeled as Priority are already Priority Schools.  I find it interesting the other two Red Clay Priority Schools are not on this list.  The Christina School District would have two more Priority Schools based on their DSSF score.  Delaware College Prep did not have their charter renewed and will close their doors forever at the end of this school year.

ReynaPotlFocusPriority3

Booker T. Washington Elementary School?  What?  Isn’t this the same school Governor Markell touted and praised for closing the gaps in 2014 and 2015?  Didn’t Delaware Today just do a big article about the school’s big turnaround?  I have to wonder if Capital School District is aware this school would have been punished again and put back in turnaround status.

Brandywine School District (district code 31) already had three designated Focus Schools this year, but four more would have joined that elite group.  Half of Delaware’s Focus Schools would have existed in the Brandywine School District!  Red Clay would have seen a middle school join while Christina would have another two schools in turnaround status.  Colonial and Delmar both would join the “Focus School Group” based on their proficiency gaps.

When you compare these schools with charter schools based on the actual Smarter Balanced scores last year, the fatal flaw in the Delaware School Success Framework becomes very clear.  Many charters such as EastSide, Family Foundations, Prestige Academy and Thomas Edison had lower Smarter Balanced scores than some of the priority and focus schools above.  But because the DSSF is based not just on the overall scores but also the “growth to proficiency”, the system is rigged to punish schools in traditional school districts.  Why?  Because the Delaware DOE never did what they said they were going to do in their ESEA waiver application:

CharterPriorityRegulation

So even though they named Delaware College Prep as a priority school in their “DSSF” scenario, it wouldn’t happen because to this date the DOE has not submitted any regulations indicating what is in the picture above.  As well, this would account for Focus Schools as well, as seen here:

FocusCharterRegulation

And what is that Focus School Criteria?

FocusCriteria1617beyond

But here is where things get confusing:

TimelineTransitionDSSF

The above states no new Focus or Priority schools will be named in the next two years.  But they will name Reward and Recognition schools.  So that’s good, right?  Wrong.  The whole ballgame changes on August 1st, 2016.  That is when the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) goes into effect.  States will be given a “planning and implementation year” so to speak.  But the key will be in the regulations issued in the coming months.  That is where ALL OF THIS will come into play.  The Delaware DOE was probably about 95% certain the ESSA would pass at the time of this ESEA Waiver application on November 19th, 2015.  So what does this mean?

These are my predictions: The regulations coming out of ESSA will give the states the authority to determine “turnaround” schools based on US DOE “guidance”.  The Delaware DOE will take full advantage of this to keep the plans now in place but also to make things go into effect in the 2016-2017 school year.  Or possibly, they will stall this until the 2017-2018 school year.  They will support this with a re-designed Regulation 103 in Delaware based on the US DOE regulations.  If the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) redistricting plan passes the General Assembly (which I now think will happen), Red Clay will have a lot of priority and focus schools.  And more to be named based on the Delaware School Success Framework and how they calculate things.  Most of them are schools in the city limits of Wilmington.  Around 2019 or 2020, the DOE will pounce on these schools with hardcore priority school MOUs.  If you thought the MOUs in 2014 were stringent, these will be even tougher for the Red Clay Board of Education to work around.  By this time, based on the Smarter Balanced scores (or whatever replaces it), all the Wilmington Red Clay schools will be in Priority School status.  Red Clay won’t close all the schools, so they will be forced to turn them over to the DOE, become charter schools, or be put into a management organization.  And that, my friends, is when we see Wilmington become an all-charter school district.  Over time this will engulf the Brandywine, Christina, Colonial, and Red Clay Consolidated School Districts.  Upper New Castle County will become ALL charter.

Think about the real estate deals that will come out of that.  Think about the collective bargaining rights that are marginalized when a school goes into priority school status.  Think about competency-based education and personalized learning and career pathways initiatives already in place in Delaware and other states.  Think about the huge amount of schools in the country that have already converted to charters, and the vast amounts of money hedge fund managers make off charters.  Think about all the foundations and non-profits that support charters.  Think about the fact that WEIC had to happen for all of this to come to fruition.  Think about how organizations like Teach For America and the Relay Graduate School for Education stand to benefit immensely from a scenario where teachers are no longer teachers but glorified moderators in a personalized learning environment.  Think about the long con and how this would eventually trickle down the state, past the canal, all the way down to Sussex County over the long run.  Think about all the tax break legislation that has gone through in Delaware that Markell has signed so fast.  There could be a lot of new business coming to Delaware.  But none of it will be good for students.

This is the game plan.  The one that Delaware Governor Jack Markell, the Rodel Foundation, and the Delaware Business Roundtable fervently support.  You won’t find any memos or emails about this.  You won’t find any hard or definitive proof either.  It will just happen.  And if you think John Carney will save the day as the new Governor of Delaware, think again…

Guess what the one mechanism is that stops all of this?

OPT OUT

If the state doesn’t have the data needed to carry out all of this, they can’t very well use the results to force all these changes.  This is why Governor Markell and the DOE and Rodel and all the organizations, foundations, and non-profits are against opt out.  Opt Out is the game-changer that disrupts ALL their plans.

DOE Recognizes MOT Charter & Sussex Academy As “Reward Schools” While Low-Income Title I Schools Are Labeled

The top recognition by the Delaware Department of Education for schools that do awesome on standardized assessments are two charter schools.  One is in a district that has a low population of low-income students and is in a more affluent area of the state, and the other has been named in a lawsuit by the ACLU for selective enrollment preferences in their application process that results in discrimination.  MOT Charter School and Sussex Academy are the two reward schools.  The recognition schools are as follows:

Distinguished Title I/Recognition Schools:

Thurgood Marshall Elementary School and Newark Charter School

Recognition Schools:

Brick Mill E.S., Dover Air Force Base M.S., Lake Forest North E.S., Lake Forest South E.S., Lancanshire E.S., Olive B. Loss E.S., Southern Delaware School of the Arts, Kathleen H. Wilbur E.S.

School of Continued Excellence 2015:

Howard High School

This is a new process for the Department as approved in their ESEA waiver submitted earlier this year.

Meanwhile, in the low-income Title I schools that have high populations of low-income, minority students, and students with disabilities, these schools have been labeled as Focus, Focus Plus and Priority Schools.  There are 10 Focus Schools, 4 Focus Plus, and 7 Priority Schools listed in the below report.  None of them are charter schools…no magnets…no vo-techs…just traditional school districts struggling to receive the resources and staffing they deserve.  They are not allowed to pick and choose who goes to their schools.  They take everyone.

Breaking News: Delaware DOE Wants To Add Charters To Priority & Focus Status In ESEA Waiver Request

The Delaware Department of Education just announced, at the Delaware Education Support System (DESS) Advisory Committee meeting, that they will be adding to their ESEA Flexibility Waiver that ALL public schools in Delaware will be given the same label system that is currently reserved for traditional public school districts.  These labels include “Priorty”, “Focus”,  and “Focus Plus”.  Currently, only traditional school districts are included but this would now include Delaware charter schools.  This would not include “Action” and “Watch” schools.  No discussion occurred in regards to funding for these schools.

Yesterday, at the Accountability Framework Working Group, the members discussed this idea and Penny Schwinn stated she would check on this.  Last evening she discussed this with members of the Governor’s staff and this will be added to Delaware’s ESEA Flexibility Waiver.  I’m not sure if the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell’s office have thought about needing public awareness of this as well as a public comment period.  Since Delaware has to hand in their updated ESEA Flexibility Waiver by October 31st, that leaves very little time for public comment.  This is not the same as Regulation 103 for several reasons.  This hasn’t been included in Regulation 103 at this point.  Regulation 103 will tie whatever is approved in the ESEA Waiver Request into State regulation.  Schwinn did state no priority or focus schools will be named in the next three years, so even if the charter addition is approved by US DOE, it wouldn’t happen until Fiscal Year 2019 at the earliest.

I am personally against this whole “labeling” system to begin with.  It is punitive in nature and severely disrupts education.  Making this happen for every school in the state could be very damaging to an already weakened traditional school district system.  This will just make charters that serve high populations of low-income, minority and special needs populations vulnerable to the same damaging effects other schools have gone through.

I asked Penny Schwinn at this meeting why are beholden to Federal “Guidance” from US DOE that is non-regulatory and does not have Congressional approval.  She flat-out answered that US DOE wouldn’t approve our ESEA Flexibility Waivers and we would fall under No Child Left Behind mandates.  Call me crazy, but I think we should call their bluff.  Nothing will change if everyone bows to the feds and says “Yes, we will do whatever you want.”  State Board of Education member Pat Heffernan said it best when he called these “Inflexibility Waivers” at last month’s State Board meeting.

Everything is tied together and it all revolves around the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  This is all under the direction of Governor Jack Markell.  He has sacrificed the public school education and the well-being of students all for the glory of high-stakes testing in the form of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It is time for Delaware to decide: do we live in Delaware or Markellaware?  Or is it all just Rodelaware?  I know I sound like Chicken Little all the time with my “the sky is falling” comments, but take a look around you.  Look at everything that is going on, in just the past month alone.  Local control is evaporating by the day and those pieces are gone before anyone realizes they are missing.

Penny Schwinn did go over the participation rate penalty part that I discussed yesterday from the AFWG meeting.  She said the Governor is okay with the option the group picked, whereby the school has to explain what they are doing about opt-out to the DOE and no school below 95% participation rate could be labeled a reward school.  I asked her point blank what changed in the past 24 hours since yesterday it seemed Markell wanted the proficiency rate multiplied by the participation rate option.  She said he was favorable to other options but preferred the infamous “#3” option.  This portion of yesterday’s meeting was not discussed by DOE to the DESS Advisory Committee until I brought it up.

The Exceptional Delaware Reward, Recognition, Priority, Focus and Focus Plus Schools of 2015

For the first ever Exceptional Delaware Honor Roll, I would like to congratulate the schools and particular grades that went below the 95% “mandatory” participation rate for the Smarter Balanced Assessment. With that being said, there could be a multitude of reasons for that participation rate, and it may not necessarily be because of parent opt-out. It could be because of medical reasons, expulsions, or in extreme cases, maybe a touch of the Bubonic Plague. I noticed a large trend in many districts where the participation rate was higher for ELA than Math. Sometimes it was the reverse, but mostly that. I have to wonder how many parents opted out after their child took the first test. For some districts, they would not have been recognized if it weren’t for many of their juniors saying “See ya” to the Smarter Balanced Assessment. These are the students who are paving the way for the younger ones.  My biggest question is what in the world happened with 4th graders at East Side Charter School?

Christina… all I can say is WOW! You far surpassed my expectations with opt-out. With all the smears and bad looks this district gets from the DOE and whatnot, I am proud to announce Christina School District as the winner of the Opt-Out Performance Fund! They will receive a special gift at their next regular board meeting in recognition of this honor. And Red Clay’s Conrad! Fantastic! Below 50% for 11th graders! You are an inspiration to all!

Under the United States Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the fine folks at the US DOE like to throw things called flexibility waivers at the states.  Under No Child Left Behind, enacted during the second President Bush years, all schools in the country had to be proficient by 2014.  If they weren’t, all hell would break loose.  So under President Obama and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, they threw states a bone called Race To The Top: adapt our Common Core standards, and make a big test based on it, and we will let you slide from the whole No Child Left Behind thing.  Then they started throwing more bones called flexibility waivers.  Hey, do this, and you are safe from No Child Left Behind.  This is what created the most severe school labeling system ever created.  But I am turning it around.

REWARD & RECOGNITION SCHOOLS

All of these schools and grades… I am so proud of them. Parents made a choice, and it showed. While these aren’t anywhere close to New York numbers, it’s a very good start. The ones that are 90% or below get to be REWARD schools. Yeah, it’s one grade, but they went below 95%!  All the Reward Schools got a special prize. The ones between 91-94% are recognition schools for any grade that caused the participation rate to go below 95%. Great job everyone!

Appoquinimink School District:

Appoquinimink High School, 11th Grade ELA: 93%

Appoquinimink High School, 11th Grade Math: 94%

Middletown High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Old State Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 94%

Waters Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 93%

Brandywine School District:

Brandywine High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Concord High School, 11th Grade Math: 94%

Hanby Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 94%

Harlan Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 89% 🙂 🙂

Campus Community School:

7th Grade Math: 93%

Cape Henlopen School District:

Shields Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 92%

Capital School District:

Central Middle School, 7th Grade Math: 94%

Dover High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

East Dover Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 94%

East Dover Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 93%

Fairview Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 89% 🙂 🙂

Fairview Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Christina School District:

Bayard Middle School, 6th Grade Math: 92%

Bayard Middle School, 7th Grade ELA: 92%

Bayard Middle School, 7th Grade Math: 92%

Bayard Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 92%

Brader Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 94%

Brader Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Brookside Elementary School, 5th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

Brookside Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 92%

Brookside Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 86% 🙂 🙂

Brookside Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 79% 🙂 🙂 🙂

Christiana High School, 11th Grade ELA: 84% 🙂 🙂

Christiana High School, 11th Grade Math: 88% 🙂 🙂

Elbert-Palmer Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Gallaher Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 93%

Gallaher Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 93%

Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, 6th Grade Math: 94%

Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, 7th Grade Math: 92%

Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, 8th Grade ELA: 92%

Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 86% 🙂 🙂

Glasgow High School, 11th Grade ELA: 82% 🙂 🙂

Glasgow High School, 11th Grade Math: 82% 🙂 🙂

Keene Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 92%

Keene Elementary School, 5th Grade ELA: 92%

Keene Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 93%

Kirk Middle School, 6th Grade Math: 94%

Maclary Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 92%

Maclary Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 86% 🙂 🙂

Maclary Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

Maclary Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Marshall Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 93%

McVey Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 89% 🙂

McVey Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 87% 🙂

Newark High School, 11th Grade ELA: 55% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Newark High School, 11th Grade Math: 56% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Shue-Medill Middle School, 6th Grade ELA: 94%

West Park Place Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 94%

West Park Place Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 93%

West Park Place Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 83% 🙂 🙂

West Park Place Elementary School, 5th Grade ELA: 89% 🙂 🙂

West Park Place Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 92%

Colonial School District:

Bedford Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 94%

Penn High School, 11th Grade ELA: 92%

Penn High School, 11th Grade Math: 89% 🙂 🙂

Pleasantville Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 92%

Pleasantville Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 92%

Southern Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 93%

Southern Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 92%

Southern Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 86% 🙂 🙂

Southern Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 93%

Delmar School District:

Delmar High School, 11th Grade Math: 93%

East Side Charter School:

4th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

4th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Gateway Lab School:

3rd Grade Math: 90% 🙂

4th Grade ELA: 92%

4th Grade Math: 93%

7th Grade Math: 92%

Indian River School District:

Sussex Central High School, 11th Grade ELA: 93%

Sussex Central High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Laurel School District:

Laurel Senior High School, 11th Grade ELA: 94%

Laurel Senior High School, 11th Grade Math: 93%

Milford School District:

Milford Senior High School, 11th Grade ELA: 88% 🙂

Milford Senior High School, 11th Grade Math: 88% 🙂

Moyer:

7th Grade ELA: 88% 🙂 🙂

7th Grade Math: 88% 🙂 🙂

11th Grade ELA: 65% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

11th Grade Math: 69% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

New Castle County Vo-Tech School District:

Delcastle Technical High School, 11th Grade Math: 94%

Hodgson Vocational Technical H.S., 11th Grade ELA: 91%

Hodgson Vocational Technical H.S., 11th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

St. Georges Technical High School, 11th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

St. Georges Technical High School, 11th Grade Math: 87% 🙂 🙂

Polytech School District:

Polytech High School, 11th Grade ELA: 94%

Polytech High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Positive Outcomes Charter School:

7th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Prestige Academy:

7th Grade Math: 94%

Reach Academy For Girls:

4th Grade ELA: 75% 🙂 🙂 🙂

4th Grade Math: 75% 🙂 🙂 🙂

6th Grade ELA: 92%

8th Grade ELA: 78% 🙂 🙂 🙂

Red Clay Consolidated School District:

A.I. DuPont High School, 11th Grade ELA: 63% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

A.I. DuPont High School, 11th Grade Math: 64% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

A.I. DuPont Middle School, 8th Grade ELA: 94%

A.I. DuPont Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 94%

Brandywine Springs School, 8th Grade Math: 93%

Cab Calloway School of the Arts, 11th Grade ELA: 84% 🙂 🙂

Cab Calloway School of the Arts, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Conrad Schools of Science, 8th Grade ELA: 94%

Conrad Schools of Science, 11th Grade ELA: 40% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Conrad Schools of Science, 11th Grade ELA: 47% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Heritage Elementary School, 5th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

Heritage Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 89% 🙂 🙂

Seaford School District:

Seaford Central Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 92%

Seaford Central Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 92%

Seaford Middle School, 6th Grade Math: 94%

Seaford Senior High School, 11th Grade ELA: 93%

Seaford Senior High School, 11th Grade Math: 89% 🙂 🙂

Smyrna School District:

North Smyrna Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 94%

The below schools…they didn’t go below the 95% participation mark in any grade for either ELA or Math on the Smarter Balanced Assessment. But there were quite a few that were right at the 95% mark in some grades, and also at 96%. So we can tip the scales by getting the word out. These are the 2015-2016 schools where there are some opt-outs, but we need a lot more. Some of the charters may have only had one or two opt-outs in one grade. But that one opt-out parent can spread the word! But these schools are the 2015-2016 Focus Schools or Focus Districts. If they are a charter school, they did not dip below 95% in any grade. For school districts, I just picked certain schools who hovered around the 99% mark. For one school, it just can’t ever get out of being labeled no matter what it does! This is your chance Stubbs! If it’s in red, it’s a Focus Plus school. That means they had maybe a handful of kids opt-out. Which is good, but not earth-shattering. We need those handful of parents who opted their kids out to spread the word!

NEED TO GET THE WORD OUT ABOUT OPT-OUT FOR THESE FOCUS AND FOCUS PLUS SCHOOLS
 

Allen Frear Elementary School (Caesar Rodney) (Focus Plus)

Banneker Elementary School (Milford)

Bunker Hill Elementary School (Appoquinimink)

Clayton Elementary School (Smyrna) (Focus Plus)

Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security

Delaware College Prep

Delaware Military Academy

Delmar Middle School (Delmar) (Focus Plus)

Family Foundations Academy

Hartly Elementary School (Capital) (Focus Plus)

Howard High School of Technology (New Castle County Vo-Tech)

Indian River High School (Indian River)

Kuumba Academy

Lake Forest School District

Lancashire Elementary School (Brandywine)

Las Americas ASPIRA Academy (Focus Plus)

Lombardy Elementary School (Brandywine) (Focus Plus)

Long Neck Elementary School

Lord Baltimore Elementary School (Focus Plus)

Maple Lane Elementary School (Brandywine) (Focus Plus)

MOT Charter School (Focus Plus)

Mount Pleasant Elementary School (Brandywine)

Newark Charter School (Focus Plus)

New Castle Elementary School (Colonial) (Focus Plus)

Oberle Elementary School (Christina)

Odyssey Charter School (Focus Plus)

Providence Creek Academy

Pulaski Elementary School (Christina)

Showell Elementary School (Indian River) (Focus Plus)

Silver Lake Elementary School (Appoquinimink)

Smyrna Elementary School (Smyrna) (Focus Plus)

Stubbs Elementary School (Christina)

Sussex Academy (Focus Plus)

Sussex Technical School District

Thomas Edison Charter School (Focus Plus)

W.B. Simpson Elementary School (Caesar Rodney) (Focus Plus)

W. Reily Brown Elementary School (Caesar Rodney) (Focus Plus)

Woodbridge School District

Below are the 2015-2016 Priority Schools. The three charters had NO opt-outs, along with the other schools. For the charters, one was on Formal Review and was probably scared that one opt-out would shut them down so they allegedly told parents it was not allowed. Another one has the lowest of minorities (aside from Asian), special education, and low-income students in the entire state. And the 3rd… their Head of School spoke out about opt-out at the House Education Committee meeting on House Bill 50 so this truly doesn’t shock me. Other Montessori schools I’ve spoken too were somewhat shocked and believe opposing parental rights like this goes against the whole Montessori model. If anyone from any of these schools did opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, please let me know cause that means something is seriously wrong. Because >99% is pretty damn close to 100%. And you can’t have 100% with one single opt-out.

If I had to guess, a lot of these schools are telling parents they can’t opt their kid out. Or the school has 100% drank the Kool-Aid the DOE gives them and gave it to all the parents. I know some of the leaders of these schools, and some are no-nonsense leaders. Some are known to be very tough. Don’t let them intimidate you. These are my extra special schools this year. Under priority status, they will be watched very closely. Unlike the DOE I won’t make them pick new leaders and fire half their teachers. And I won’t make them sign a Memorandum of Understanding that makes no sense whatsoever by a certain date. I won’t tell them comply or die either. But they are Priority Schools for opt-out, and this is a Code Red alert for Delaware! This is just plain unacceptable…  They get a very special label in recognition of two very special legislators who opposed House Bill 50 the loudest (and they were also the Chairs of the House and Senate Education Committee).

THE EARL JAQUES AND DAVE SOKOLA PRIORITY SCHOOLS OF DELAWARE

Academy of Dover 😦

Charter School of Wilmington 😦

First State Montessori Academy 😦

Lake Forest North Elementary School (Lake Forest) 😦

Lake Forest South Elementary School (Lake Forest) 😦

Richardson Park (Elementary School) (Red Clay) 😦

Star Hill Elementary School (Caesar Rodney)  😦

South Dover Elementary School (Capital) 😦

Sussex Technical High School (Sussex Tech) 😦

For our school principals and superintendents and charter leaders: I’m watching you. I’ve been watching you. The DOE is on the stage, putting on their show. You are all in the audience, and you are literally paying for their performance. Rodel and Vision and the Delaware Business Roundtable are providing all the lighting and special effects, with equipment bought from all the corporate education reform companies around the country. I see the State Board providing the symphony. The legislators are paying all the bills and making sure everything is up to snuff (or in some situations allowing the audience to be robbed blind).  And the director, none other than Delaware Governor Jack Markell. His assistant went exit stage left, but we are waiting to see what his new guy does. And me, I’m the guy up on the catwalk watching the whole thing unfold. I see all of it. I had to get rid of some of the cobwebs up there to see better, but I can see things very clearly right now.  And guess what, I’m not alone.  I’m inviting parents all the time to watch too.  And more and more are watching the play.  They are telling me “hey, you see that guy over there, he told me I couldn’t opt-out my son” or “they told me I have to get a doctor’s note” or sometimes it’s a parent/teacher telling me “our superintendent says only he gets to decide who opts out.”

As of this very moment, I am giving you all amnesty. You are pardoned if I wrote negative things about you concerning opt-out last year.  Some of you actually came through in a big way on the Accountability Framework Working Group and turned the scales on the DOE.  We have a clean slate.  Don’t get all offended if your school is on this list.  The DOE has this information up too, but I’m just reversing the labels for true accountability purposes.  The good news: if your school is a Focus, Focus Plus, or Priority School, you can easily get out of it in the Spring.  All of you will be hearing from me very soon.  But just so you know, all of us on the catwalk are watching…

To all the very brave parents who opted their child out last Spring, I want to say Thank You. You made a very brave decision, and I salute you. Your job now is to do the same this year, no matter what threats or bullying gestures are thrown your way. Hopefully House Bill 50 will be vetoed by the time Smarter Balanced rolls around again next Spring, but if not do what you did this year. While some may have looked down on you for that decision, stand by your convictions. Even if it was in a “high-performing” school. And spread the word. The doors of conversation will start to open up in the coming week when parents get their kids results. You don’t have to worry about that. Cause your child is a not-having-to-take-the-test rock star, and you made the right decision.

If your school isn’t on this list, you can check it all out here:

http://www.doe.k12.de.us/cms/lib09/DE01922744/Centricity/Domain/111/Attachment3%20SchoolandCharterPerformanceParticipationUpdated0917.pdf

Read The Survey DOE Sent To Focus School Teachers To Prep Them For DOE Intrusion

The Delaware Department of Education is naming 10 Focus Schools (think Priority Lite) in addition to 4 Focus Schools which will become Focus Plus.  This is in addition to the 7 Priority Schools in Delaware.  And it doesn’t look like the soon-to-be-voted-on by the State Board of Education Regulation 103 will ease this plethora of schools the Delaware DOE wants to punish in the future.

As part of their prep work for the new Focus Schools, the DOE sent a survey for teachers to fill out.  They gave them a lot of time too.  They got it today and it has to be done by Monday.  Yes, I said Monday.  It is all voluntary, but I digress…

To say some of these questions are very intrusive would be an understatement.  The DOE is disturbing me on more levels than ever before.  And that’s just in the past two months.  What they are doing to education is going to have damaging effects on students, teachers, schools, parents, communities, and themselves.  It’s one thing to follow Federal mandate, but to do what they are doing is way beyond what any Federal mandates or even non-regulatory guidance suggest.  It’s like poor schools are the DOE’s lab rats and they keep wanting to change the catalysts to completely destroy them.  It is a sickening thing to report on, and I hate it.  The DOE has no concept of human dignity anymore, and it is shameful.  But what can I expect from a state agency that refers to educators as “Human Capital”.  But someone has to report this stuff so the public knows what is going on behind all the press releases they send out.  “Who watches the watchmen?”

Below is the survey sent to the teachers at these 10 Focus Schools.  Did this come from the mind of Penny Schwinn or Christopher Ruszkowski at the DOE?

* 1. Teachers at my school follow an established curriculum and appropriate pacing.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 2. Teachers at my school routinely differentiate instruction based on data and the needs of students.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 3. Teachers at my school have a strong understanding of the academic content standards that make-up the curriculum.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 4. Teachers at my school are aware of effective instructional strategies to promote student engagement.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 5. My school has a formal process or model for designing lessons.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 6. Teachers at my school utilize various formative assessment strategies.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 7. Student progress at my school is monitored regularly.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 8. Individual teachers and/or teams of teaches set academic goals related to student achievement.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 9. School or district developed benchmark assessments are effectively used at my school.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 10. Teachers at my school review and analyze data together.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 11. Teachers at my school have easy access (electronically or hard copy reports) to student achievement data.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 12. I feel comfortable using data to inform my teaching practices.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 13. There is an effective process to identify academically struggling students at my school.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 14. Our school’s RTI or intervention system is effective.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 15. Teachers new to my school are given an appropriate amount of support.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 16. Our school has a difficult time getting good candidates to apply for openings at our school.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 17. School sponsored professional development activities address my needs.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 18. I receive feedback on my teaching practices at least once per month.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 19. There is a process for teachers at my school to receive assistance and coaching when needed.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 20. Our school has a functional building leadership team.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 21. Teachers are often asked for input on school matters at my school.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 22. My school’s most critical priorities are known by most staff.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 23. Teachers participate in setting school-wide achievement goals each year.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 24. This year my school has implemented effective strategies to engage parents.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 25. I feel comfortable talking with school leaders (administrators or teachers) about instructional practices.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 26. Our school does a good job of utilizing resources (time, money, personnel).

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 27. Established school rules are followed by students at my school.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 28. School leaders at my school monitor student discipline data and implements effective systems to promote positive student behavior.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 29. The teaching-learning process in my classroom is frequently made more difficult because of poor student behavior.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 30. My school has implemented effective strategies to promote student attendance and punctuality to school.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 31. My school has effective resources in place to support students’ social and emotional needs.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 32. Students at my school are expected to achieve and conduct themselves at a high level, and students are recognized for doing so.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 33. Teachers at my school believe students’ backgrounds are major barriers.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 34. Teachers at my school often stay after school or work on weekends.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 35. I am excited about the future of my school.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 36. I believe most of my students are capable of pursuing post-secondary education.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

* 37. Teachers at my school are committed to supporting new educational initiatives.

Strongly Agree
Agree
Unsure
Disagree
Strongly Disagree
Prev Done

Delaware School Success Framework Is Regulation 103: * Opt-Out Penalty * Action Schools * Focus Schools * Priority Schools *

THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ARTICLE I HAVE EVER WRITTEN AND ACTION NEEDS TO BE TAKEN NOW!!!!

Now Exceptional Delaware has yet another place to look for information and changes the Delaware Department of Education are trying to squeak into state regulation.  I have found the actual regulation for the Delaware School Success Report in the monthly Delaware Register of Regulations for September.  It is still a proposed regulation but the deadline for public comment is 10/1/15.  I’m glad I found yet another source of information for me to be on top of in this state.  I’m going to have come up with some kind of parent guide to navigate through all this stuff in case I ever become incapacitated or die or whatever.

Yes, this regulation already has the participation rate penalty as part of the regulation, even though it was never on the actual ESEA waiver the public was able to view and comment on.  For the calendar of events/public hearing notices in the registrar, it has a listing of what the options are for the public to comment on a regulation or any hearings to attend based on the regulation.  For all of them EXCEPT Regulation 103, it states what the regulation is and what the public can do.  For Regulation 103, all it says is:

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
PUBLIC NOTICE
The State Board of Education will hold its monthly meeting on Thursday, September 17, 2015 at 1:00 p.m. in the Townsend Building, Dover, Delaware.
Hmm…
So I have the actual regulation with it’s exact proposed wording below.  Where is the public notification of this regulation in printed material?  In the meantime, if you have never read a long document on Scribd, this is the time WHERE YOU MUST READ EVERY SINGLE WORD OF THIS BECAUSE THIS IS THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION IN DELAWARE!!!!!!!!!!!  Every single legislator, parent, teacher, staff member, principal, district worker, district administrator, superintendent, board member and citizen needs to read this.  Because if you don’t act NOW, it will be too late.  AND THERE IS NO WAY THE 148TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY WILL BE ABLE TO OVERRIDE THE HOUSE BILL 50 VETO once this goes into effect because it will go against STATE LAW!  You MUST write or email the DOE by October 1st, and give public comment at next week’s State Board of Education meeting, on September 17th, to voice your strong objection to this absolute state takeover of our neediest schools based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The Delaware School Success Report is NOT the same as the Delaware School Success Framework.  The report is just the pretty little report card parents will get on the school.

Is The Delaware DOE A Victim Of Federal Mandate As Much As Our Students & Educators?

The more I look into education on a federal level, the more I think it is not just parents who are bullied and intimidated, but also each state Department of Education.  For the past week, I have been closely examining the “school report card” fiasco in Delaware.  Dubbed the “Delaware School Success Framework”, this is a new accountability system for public schools in Delaware.  The controversy around it has centered around a participation rate penalty which the Delaware Department of Education said was a “non-negotiable” and “required” item on the framework.  While this is still being investigated by this blog and others at this point, and what the DOE said and did at different pints in time, it is becoming obvious US DOE “mandates” can be non-regulatory but said in a way it could be easily perceived as threatening or intimidating.

The participation rate is the percentage of children who take the state assessment, which in Delaware’s case is the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The rule is that it can’t go below the 95% mark, otherwise there would be penalties.  For years, everyone assumed this was a cut in federal funding, which has never happened.  But as I review Delaware and other state’s 2015 ESEA Flexibility Waivers, I’m finding some states are choosing the participation rate penalty in lieu of checking the area off where they would receive cuts in funding.  If the feds have never done this before, when many schools have clearly gone way below the 95% mark, why would they be harping on this now?

When states like New York, New Jersey and Washington had very high opt-out rates statewide, this drew a lot more attention to the issue.  States like Delaware and Oregon had opt-out legislation passed by their legislators.  In Oregon, the Governor signed it.  In Delaware, the Governor vetoed the bill.  But opt-out will continue, and probably in larger numbers this school year.  This is not a train that can be stopped.

Other mandates by the US DOE, such as the labeling of Title I schools as priority or focus, seem to be closely watched and monitored by the feds.  These schools labels are all based on the proficiency ratings from the state assessments, which is very dangerous.  High poverty schools can not be compared to regular schools whose students are not within the same sub-groups.  It is a system designed specifically to measure up or close.  The very term “sub-group” would indicate these students are below others.  I watched the Delaware DOE stumble through this last year, and I was privy to internal and external emails surrounding this debacle through released FOIA material.  The whole process is so convoluted it would take a Mensa genius to figure it all out.

Who in Delaware will stand up to the Feds once and for all for the sake of our children?  If you are banking on Governor Markell, I don’t see that happening.  Will the interim Secretary of Education, Dr. Steven Godowsky, step up?  And how will the upcoming ESEA reauthorization impact all of this?  And will President Obama even sign the bill if Congress gets together and successfully combines both versions of the legislation?  The next few months will be very interesting for education.

Delaware DOE To Name 10 Focus Schools By End of 2015, School Report Card Will Determine Future Priority Schools

The Delaware DOE will pick 10 new Focus Schools by the end of 2015 according to their ESEA Renewal document.  These Focus Schools will be in addition to four remaining Focus Schools from the prior year.  No priority schools will be picked this year, but be sure they will the year after!  In the Delaware Department of Education’s ESEA Flex Waiver request for 2015, they wrote the following:

Classification of Schools and Districts

The U.S. Department of Education requires Title I schools to be classified into three categories: Reward, Focus and Priority. Delaware has created a fourth category for Title I and non-Title I schools called Recognition. Moving forward, DDOE intends to use the Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF) to classify its schools within these categories.1 The U.S. Department of Education has indicated that using a state’s rating system is permissible so long as the state demonstrates that it has identified the required number of schools that meet the ESEA Flexibility definitions.

“For each ESEA Criterion there is a proposed way in which the DSSF will be used to identify schools.2 By the end of 2015, this methodology will be used for the identification of a new cohort of 10 Focus schools (with 2015-16 school year as a planning year),3 at least two Reward schools, and up to 15 Recognition schools for 2015-16. A new cohort of Priority schools will not be identified for the 2015-16 school year, but the proposed new methodology is included to indicate how future cohorts may be identified.”

with footnotes added:

2 “For the sections in Principle 2 on Reward, Recognition, Priority and Focus schools, unless otherwise noted, LEA references district public schools.”

3 “Four current Focus schools will not exit from that status at the end of the 2014-2015 school year, for a total of 14 Focus Schools”

This information can be found here, on page 9:

http://www.doe.k12.de.us/cms/lib09/DE01922744/Centricity/domain/232/esea/DE_ESEA_Flex_Renewal_Proposal_3-31-15.pdf

The US Department of Education defines a Focus school as:

“A Title I school that has the largest within-school gaps between the highest-achieving subgroup or subgroups and the lowest-achieving subgroup or subgroups or, at the high school level, has the largest within-school gaps in graduation rates (“within-school-gaps” focus school); or

 A Title I school that has a subgroup or subgroups with low achievement or, at the high school level, low graduation rates (“low-achieving subgroup” focus school).”

The DOE will use past data from 2013-2014 to pick these focus schools.

Making matters worse, the US DOE is making the Delaware DOE use their upcoming Delaware School Success Framework to be the guide for picking Priority, Focus, Reward and Recognition schools once it is approved by our State Board of Education and than the US DOE (see the Scribd document). Delaware MUST submit an approved request for this by October 31st.  Even more reason for the General Assembly to override Governor Markell’s House Bill 50 veto, otherwise opt-out could push a Title I school to priority schools status.

Breaking News: Delaware DOE Gets ESEA Flex Waiver Approved By US DOE

This was just announced by the Delaware Department of Education.  The good news is teacher and principal evaluations will get another “skip” year from the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The bad news, the feds really want the state to implement more priority, focus and reward schools in 2016-2017 based on the DOE’s new accountability system with grading schools.  I told you nine months ago this was coming…and here it is…

Below is the press announcement from the Delaware DOE:

Delaware receives federal approval for ESEA flexibility renewal

 The U.S. Department of Education today approved Delaware’s request for another year of flexibility from the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Acting Assistant Secretary Heather Rieman said ESEA flexibility has helped “Delaware to carry out important reforms to improve student achievement …With this renewal, Delaware will be able to continue implementing its plan to promote innovative, locally tailored strategies to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity, and improve the quality of instruction.”

Delaware is eligible for flexibility approval through the 2017-18 school year after submission of more information this fall.

With the flexibility approval, which Delaware first received in the 2011-2012 academic year, schools no longer are subject to some restrictive requirements of ESEA. Schools and districts also gain the ability to refocus some funding, such as money formerly required for choice and supplemental education services, for the specific supports that best meet their students’ needs.

 Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy said he appreciates the U.S. Department of Education’s support for the work underway in our state.

“We are proud of the progress our schools are making and that more children graduating from our system ready for college and careers. This flexibility will allow our educators to continue to make the decisions that are best for their children,” he said.

Find more information here.

Alison May
alison.may@doe.k12.de.us
(302) 735-4000

This is exactly why the ESEA reauthorization needs to get rid of this label and punish mentality.  If schools constantly feel under threat, that is intimidation.  “Do things our way, or else…”  They are nothing but a bunch of bullies…

Potential Priority School List Was Actually Potential DE Talent Cooperative Schools

A month and a half ago, I posted an email between employees of the Delaware DOE concerning a list of schools.  There was no reference to what this list was for, but it was somewhat suspicious given the priority schools fiasco in Red Clay and Christina.  Upon reviewing more from a huge FOIA drop, I have found another email concerning that list, and this does verify the list was for the Delaware Talent Cooperative.  Just thought I would get this out there in case anyone was concerned about this.  I have heard, however, there will be new “focus” schools named later this year….

School Eligibility

Eligible schools are schools that serve high populations of traditionally underserved students. Specifically, a school is eligible if it meets at least one of these four conditions: Continue reading “Potential Priority School List Was Actually Potential DE Talent Cooperative Schools”