Why Was The Greak Oaks Charter School Founder Invited To The Signing Of The Delaware Charter School Audit Bill?

HB435Signing

I found out who that guy is next to Kendall Massett.  It is Michael Duffy, the founder of the Great Oaks Charter School franchise.  Why is he in this picture?  Did he have absolutely anything to do with this legislation?  I doubt it.  Do you want to know who should be in this picture?  Kathleen Davies, from the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office.  Not some guy who used to run the Charter School Office at the New York DOE.  Was he there as Kendall’s guest or was he just hobnobbing with his fellow Education Inc. buddy, Jack Markell?  Jack was busy that day, launching the Teacher Leader fraud program and stabbing his fellow legislators in the back with his Executive Order.  Davies should have been there.  I will find out who screwed you over Kathleen!

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State Board of Education Approved Modifications For DAPSS, DE Design-Lab, First State Montessori, & Prestige Academy

The Delaware State Board of Education approved all the major modifications that came across their table last Thursday. The charter schools involved either raised or lowered their enrollment numbers with their modification applications.

Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security got rid of 8th grade and lowered their enrollment numbers to 330 for the 2016-2017 school year with increased enrollment of 375 by the 2020-2021 school year to keep them as a 9th to 12th grade school.

Delaware Design-Lab High School also lowered their enrollment, but they will be adding 11th grade next year as per their original charter application. Their growth is a bit more aggressive with 350 students in 9th-11th grade for 2016-2017, 475 for 2017-2018 when they add 12th grade, and up to 600 by 2019-2020.

First State Montessori Academy, who will be taking over the former Delaware Met building next door to them, was approved to add a middle school with students in 6th to 8th grade. Their enrollment for 2016-2017 must be 430 students in Kindergarten to 6th grade and by 2021-2022 they must have 654 students in K-8.

Prestige Academy is now a 6th to 8th grade school instead of a 5th to 8th middle school, and their enrollment has been lowered to 240 from the 2016-2017 school year and every year proceeding that.

Odyssey Charter School had a modification approved without the consent of the State Board of Education since it was considered a minor modifications. Their modification surrounded enrollment with increases less than 15%. Odyssey’s approved enrollment includes their high school which will make them a K-12 school by the 2019-2020 year. Both Kuumba Academy and Great Oaks Charter School had similar minor modifications approved in February by Secretary Godowsky with no grade level changes.

With the charter moratorium for Wilmington still in effect from House Bill 56, no new charter schools can apply for a Wilmington location. But that doesn’t seem to stop the existing schools from tweaking their numbers. Many First State Montessori parents wanted the change, but some folks submitted public comment around their enrollment preferences and were worried this could create more bias in the school. Prestige and Delaware Design-Lab were both on probation due to low enrollment figures last year. Their will still be many charter school enrollment changes next school year based on these approvals. More students in flux around Wilmington is not, in my opinion, a way to stabilize the situation with constant student movement in the city. If the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan is approved by the 148 General Assembly, it will create even more flux with students as Christina’s Wilmington schools become a part of the Red Clay Consolidated School District.

Charter Modification Update: DAPSS, DE Design-Lab & First State Montessori Get Thumbs Up From DOE

Grand_Central_Station_Inside

Three of the five charters that submitted major modification requests to the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education got the green light today.  The Charter School Accountability Committee held their final meetings with the three schools today.  All three received a recommendation of approval from the committee.  The State Board of Education will make the final decision at their March meeting.

Two other schools that submitted major mods have meetings tomorrow with the CSAC.  Prestige Academy has their last meeting and Academia Antonia Alonso has their first.  Another school, Odyssey Charter School, submitted a minor modification for enrollment changes but Secretary of Education Godowsky exercised his authority to give them the CSAC treatment.  They also meet with the CSAC tomorrow.

Should the State Board approve all these modifications, many students will be in flux next year.  First State Montessori will increase their enrollment significantly.  Two other charters submitted minor modifications for up to 15% increases: Great Oaks and Kuumba Academy.  They only need Secretary approval and not the State Board.  Prestige, Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security, and Delaware Design-Lab will decrease their enrollment.  Academia Antonia Alonso will actually move their location from the Community Education Building.  This is on top of Delaware Met closing in January and Delaware College Prep closing at the end of this school year.  In December, Red Clay’s board approved a modification for Delaware Military Academy to start increasing their enrollment in the 2017-2018 school year.  Who needs a freeze on new charter applications when the Delaware DOE becomes Grand Central Station for Wilmington charter school students?

Downtown First State Montessori & Great Oaks Look To Expand While DAPSS & Prestige Academy Look To Shrink

Four charter schools in New Castle County submitted requests for modifications last month.  Two are looking to get bigger while two want to get smaller.  The two that want to expand are in the heart of downtown Wilmington while the two that want to shrink do not have the benefit of having the key downtown locations.

FIRST STATE MONTESSORI ACADEMY

First State Montessori Academy wants to become a K-8 school in 2016-2017.  The shocking news in all this?  They wrote about their intention to use the building Delaware Met resides in until January 22nd.  The location is actually perfect if their modification request is approved.  Aside from boiler issues, the building is already conducive to older students.  The school is currently K-8, but they found they were losing a lot of 5th grade students so they could acclimate to the middle school environment.  By going through 8th grade, this would eliminate that problem.

GREAT OAKS CHARTER SCHOOL

Great Oaks submitted a minor modification request to increase their enrollment by 25 students for the 2016-2017 school year.  Their request shows that interim Smarter Balanced Assessments given to students are showing modest gains for students.  The school is reporting NO violent incidents at the school whatsoever.  In their application, Great Oaks indicated they are only using half of their designated space in the Community Education Building in downtown Wilmington.

DELAWARE ACADEMY OF PUBLIC SAFETY & SECURITY (DAPSS)

The Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security submitted a major modification request to the Delaware Department of Education Charter School Office on December 10th.  They want to decrease their enrollment from their charter approved 480 students to 375 students, a reduction of 22%.  What makes this very interesting is the fact other charter schools in Delaware have been placed on formal review for not having 80% of their approved enrollment in their charter. DAPSS has not met their approved enrollment figures for the past two years.  The DOE looks at formal review status for charters if they fall below 80% of their approved enrollment based on the financial viability of the school.

According to the information submitted by DAPSS to the Charter School Office, their enrollment last year was 363, which put them at 76% of their approved enrollment.  This year, the school lost 60 students and currently stand at 303 students.  This is less than 64% of their approved enrollment.  My biggest question would be why they were not put on formal review last year or this year based on this information.

For their performance framework, the school was labeled as “Does Not Meet Standard” for their organizational framework three out of the last four academic years, in 11-12, 12-13, and 14-15.  For their financial framework, they were labeled as “Falls Far Below Standard” in 11-12, 13-14, and 14-15 and “Does Not Meet Standard” in 12-13.  Once again, they have not been placed on formal review for their very negative ratings on the State Board of Education approved Charter School Performance Framework.

PRESTIGE ACADEMY

Like DAPSS, Prestige Academy wants to lower their enrollment, but they were put on formal review for this last spring along with academic concerns.  As the only all-boys charter school in Delaware, Prestige Academy appears to be have been held under the microscope by the DOE quite a bit compared to DAPSS.  The charter school is looking to drop 5th grade and would be middle school only, serving students in 6th-8th grade.

IMPACTS

All of this charter shuffling, if approved by Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky and the State Board of Education at their March meeting, comes at a curious time.  With the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission and the redistricting of all Wilmington students (aside from Colonial) into Red Clay, this is a lot of movement for one city’s students.  While House Bill 56 put a freeze on new charter applications in Wilmington for a few years or until the state can come up with a plan for all the charters in Wilmington, the existing ones look to capitalize on this and change their enrollment numbers to maximize the benefits for their growth (or shrinkage in two of these situations).  It is actually very strategic on their part.

The downside to this would be the effect it has on the surrounding school districts, especially in the case of First State Montessori Academy.  As a school that gets the bulk of their students from Christina School District, this could have a very debilitating effect on the already struggling school district.  It is my contention House Bill 56 should have put a freeze on modifications like this as well, but at the same time preventing any charter school from going on formal review for low enrollment due to so many changes going on in Wilmington education.

The 920 N. French Street building is certainly up for grabs.  I wrote a post last month that Las Americas ASPIRA Academy was looking at the location last month as well.  First State Montessori would be using part of the building next year.  Innovative Schools would be in some deep financial straits if they didn’t line up a tenant for this property right away.  I have to wonder how that works with rent for Delaware Met.  I assume they signed their sub-lease with Innovative Schools for a designated time period.  Will that contract cease as of January 22nd or in the weeks afterwards as the school closes down operations or are they on the hook until June 30th?

Only one new approved charter school will open up in the 2016-2017 school year, Delaware STEM Academy.  They will begin with 150 9th grade students, hoping to reach 600 students a few years after that.  I am not aware of their current enrollment figures for their first year.  The school choice window closes tomorrow.  As required by state law, the school will need to be at 80% of their enrollment by April 1st to prevent a formal review for financial viability.  While they escaped from formal review status last Spring, Delaware Design-Lab High School and Freire Charter School had major issues with their enrollment figures.  They eventually met the 80% figures but not without some major angst along the way.  Wilmington is a hot mess with far too many schools, in my humble opinion.  I would have to think this was not State Rep. Charles Potter’s intention when he submitted the legislation for the charter school application freeze…

Delaware Today Article Has Overwhelming Bias For Wilmington Charter Schools

The November issue of Delaware Today hit the stands, and controversy surrounding an article on Wilmington charter schools is already beginning.  The article, written by Melissa Jacobs, does not even mention the four surrounding traditional school districts: Christina, Red Clay, Brandywine or Colonial.  It gives the illusion that these students would be complete failures unless they attend a charter with Teach For America corps members.  It is highly disrespectful of the hard work traditional school districts do for these students.

Any article that props up the Charter School of Wilmington as the greatest school in Delaware is going to immediately be on my radar.

Other kids find it in other charters. Three of them—Academia Antonia Alonso, Kuumba Academy and Great Oaks—are housed in the Community Education Building on French Street. Delaware Met just opened its doors nearby. All-boys Prestige Academy is older. It’s true that some of the city’s charter schools have stumbled. But others have excelled, like the Charter School of Wilmington, which was ranked No. 15 in Newsweek’s 2015 list of America’s top high schools.

The reporter failed to even mention CSW’s enrollment practices and specific interest clause which results in a very skewed population of students in a Wilmington School.  As of their 2014-2015 school profile, CSW had 6% African-American, 3.3% Hispanic-Latino, and .2% students with disabilities.  Meanwhile, far surpassing any school in the state, they had a population of 26.4% Asian students.  Their demographics do not even come close to matching the surrounding schools in Wilmington.

Aside from Howard High School in the New Castle County Vocational District, no other traditional Wilmington schools are mentioned.  This is a puff piece on charters and I have to wonder why that is.  I am usually suspicious when Dr. Paul Herdman of the Rodel Foundation is quoted in an article:

“We are at a juncture of potentially profound hope for Wilmington’s schools,” says Paul Herdman, president and CEO of the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, a nonprofit committed to creating a first-class educational system in the state by 2020.

Last Winter, I wrote an article concerning potential preferential treatment given to charter school teachers and the development of the Market Street Village apartments.  While Governor Markell’s office quickly debunked this theory, the article in the News Journal mentioned the Buccini/Pollin Group as providing this effort to attract teachers:

The new units will add to the 800 units Buccini/Pollin has already built in Wilmington, including 116 at The Residences of Harlan Flats, a luxury apartment property that opened last month along the Riverfront.

The Delaware Today article references the very same group as working with Great Oaks Charter School to attract certain kinds of teachers to Wilmington:

 With an ancillary mission of improving the community, Great Oaks worked with local developers Buccini/Pollin Group to find or create housing for its 37 AmeriCorps-funded tutors. Those now housed in various BPG apartment buildings on Market Street drive a need for restaurants and nightlife. And if the record from other cities with Great Oaks schools holds, a third of each year’s cohort will find permanent jobs and remain in the city after their year of service.

What concerned me the most about the article is the following part which flies in the face of the charter school moratorium in place with House Bill 56 w/Amendment #1 passed last Spring by the 148th General Assembly and signed by Governor Markell.

In the 2014-15 school year, 2,475 of the 11,575 students in Wilmington attended charter schools. That’s more than a fifth of the city’s school-aged children. And in two years, with the planned openings of new schools, charters will provide capacity for half of the city’s school-aged children. Six of the current charters call downtown home.

There is only one charter scheduled to open up next year in Wilmington, and that is the Delaware STEM Academy.  No applications for new charters were approved by the Delaware DOE last year, so where are all these new charters coming from?  Where do the estimated 3,300 students not currently attending charters currently go to school?  This makes me highly suspicious of a foul stench surrounding this article and plans in place that are not fully transparent to the public.  I have a strong suspicious many legislators in Delaware are not aware of these plans either as those who oppose the massive charter school push in Delaware would have surely mentioned this by now.  This article completely contradicts the view that there are already way too many charter schools in Wilmington and the reporter needs to reveal who told her about these new charters scheduled to open which will more than double the amount of Wilmington students attending charters.

As well, Paul Herdman talks about the role charter high schools play in Wilmington, and he made a completely false statement:

Though critics of public education in Wilmington make much of the fact that there is no traditional public school in the city, Herdman notes that there are three, each with a specific educational emphasis.

I’m not sure if Rodel and Herdman are aware, but charter schools are not traditional public schools.   They are uniquely different and it was specifically written into the original Delaware charter bill that these are not the same as traditional public schools.  Charter School of Wilmington, Freire and Delaware Met are not traditional public schools and the last of them may not even survive past the current school year.

This article poses a great deal of questions that deserve immediate answers.

Updated, 11:17am: Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman, the Vice Chair of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission wrote the following on my Facebook page:

In defense of the article’s participants, Laurisa Schutt (TFA) referred the Philly-based author to Tony (Allen)/WEIC, assuming they might be interested in a broader vision for Wilmington’s ed landscape. Needless to say, the author made it fairly clear she was not.

I did a quick check on the author, Melissa Jacobs, and could not find any real connections with charter schools but I did find one where she promotes education reform and the charter movement in the same article.  Her LinkedIn profile doesn’t even show her as a writer for Delaware Today, but does show her as an Associate Editor at Main Line Today out of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania and a freelance writer for the Pennsylvania Gazette, an alumni magazine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Power Women Today 2013

This gets more bizarre by the minute…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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