2019 September 30th Numbers Show Special Education Is Up But Another Key Demographic Is Decreasing

The Delaware Department of Education released the 2019 September 30th Unit Count report earlier this month.  Special education numbers are rising each year.  This is now the 6th year I’ve written about this report.  This covers everything: special education, demographics of each district and charter school, and enrollment trends in Delaware’s public education.  One of the demographics in Delaware public schools is actually decreasing which came off as shocking to myself. Continue reading

Red Clay Board Member Pokes The Bear With Sam Paoli From CSW!

The Red Clay Board of Education meeting the other night was one for the record books!  The highlight of the meeting was the Charter School of Wilmington renewal discussion.  Dr. Sam Paoli, the President of CSW, got drilled and grilled with a ton of questions about CSW’s demographics and recruitment efforts.

The absolute best part of the conversation was when Jose Matthews, the husband of Mike Matthews, the former President of the Delaware State Education Association, told Paoli the following: Continue reading

Special Report: Red Flags In Delaware Student Enrollment Trends & The Increase In Special Education

The Delaware Department of Education released the September 30th counts report for the 2018-2019 school year.  Enrollment in Delaware is up by 775 students.  Special education is on the rise, jumping to over 16%. There are some very odd trends going on with different sub-groups in Delaware.  Ones that are making me VERY suspicious. Continue reading

The Discussion About Racism Is Important But So Is The Tone. Tales From A Red Clay Board Meeting.

Last week, at the Red Clay Board of Education meeting, a huge and heated conversation took place about the lack of diversity at Cab Calloway School of the Arts.  It turned into something ugly and what I would not expect from a sitting board member. Continue reading

Red Clay Board of Education Votes Unanimously For Equity Plan

Last night, the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education voted unanimously for the district to develop an Equity Plan through their long-standing Diversity Committee.  The resolution, written by board member Adriana Bohm, would charge the committee to develop the Equity Plan, which will be presented to the board by April of 2018.  Many community members came out to give public comment in support of plan.

Where this gets a bit sticky is the two charter schools Red Clay authorizes, Charter School of Wilmington and Delaware Military Academy.  As their authorizing agent, Red Clay can conduct their charter renewal process along with formal reviews, modifications, and other such matters.  But they cannot dictate district policy to those schools and make them follow it.  Both schools have substantially lower populations of racial groups the Diversity Committee would talk about.  Failure to address this huge gap between the districts and those charters would ignore the inherent and not-to-be ignored problems of race in the district.  Based on enrollment preferences, those schools have the tendency to pick and choose who they want based on “specific interest”.

I definitely think Bohm’s resolution is a good one.  Red Clay had mixed results with their Inclusion Plan over the past few years which has prompted significant changes in the way the district handles special education.  Based on 2016-2017 data, Red Clay has more minorities than white students, with the largest of those minorities being Hispanic students at around 30%.  But what I don’t want to see this committee doing is basing student success on Smarter Balanced Assessment scores.  I do not believe these are a valid measurement of student success in any possible way.  Many in the African-American community feel these are a valid measurement since they include all students, but when the test is flawed it is not a good measurement.

To read the entire plan, please see below.

President Obama’s Office Releases Massive “Rethinking Discipline” Report For Schools

Today, the White House released a very long report on school discipline entitled “The Continuing Need to Rethink Discipline”.  The report has a plethora of recommendations for public schools in America.  I agree with most of them based on a cursory glance, but like many reports of this nature that I write about, it fails to recognize the fact that Common Core State Standards or other similar standards along with the high-stakes testing environment accompanying those standards are causing more problems than they are worth in our schools.  I will write more about this as I go through the report in the coming days.

The Every Student Succeeds Act addresses school discipline and how our schools carry out punishment for negative behaviors.  On Monday evening, the ESSA Discussion Group I am a member of in Delaware addressed this very issue.  As well, a Delaware newspaper is working on an extensive article about bullying in Delaware and how our schools respond to bullying reporting.

It remains unclear how the incoming Trump administration will view this report.

For now, please read the below report.

Here It Comes! Wait For It! “Common Core Is Working!”

The News Journal wrote about Delaware’s latest graduation rates.  It seems after years of increasing rates, the numbers are now flat!  Tomorrow, at the State Board of WEIC Education meeting, we will hear the State Board members justifying why this isn’t a bad thing.  Someone, probably Pat Heffernan, will say something to the effect of “it looks like Common Core is working”.  But they will remain oblivious to the facts before them.

In 2014’s graduating class, 8,202 out of 9,713 students graduated for a rate of 84.4%.  For 2015, 8,293 graduated out of 9,832 students at 84.3%.  Yes, 91 more students graduated, but 28 more dropped out.  In 2014, 1,511 students dropped out and in 2015, 1,539 dropped out.  That isn’t really something to be proud of.  On the downward trend are students with disabilities, English Language Learners, Hispanic students, multi-racial students, and low-income students.

In comparing the 2014 rates to 2015, the biggest drop in graduation rates was for English Language Learners, dropping over six percentage points from 75% to 68.7%.  Low-income students also took a pretty big drop.  But this is hard to figure out, when you look at the numbers, since the Delaware Department of Education changed the definition of “low-income” from those eligible for free and reduced lunch to those on public assistance.  But still, in 2014 only 77.8% of low-income students graduated compared to 73.7% in 2015.  Even though more graduated in 2015, the percentage of students with disabilities dropped .4% between 2014 and 2015.

These are the statements I predict we will hear tomorrow at the State Board meeting:

“This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  At least we didn’t take a sharp drop.”

“We have to stay on course.  We cannot relent.”

“I think personalized learning will be a driver for future growth.”

“After four years of Common Core implementation, we are seeing the fruits of a rigorous educational environment.”

“We will continue to have robust conversations on how to make all students college and career ready.”

“I don’t understand all these numbers.  What does all this mean?”

 

 

 

Why Should Red Clay Get $6 Million In Funding For Things All Delaware Schools Need & Deserve?

StateOfDelaware

It struck me last night that if the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan does pass the State Board of Education, the 148th General Assembly and the Governor that Red Clay will benefit immensely while every other district and charter school in the state will suffer.  The plan calls for Red Clay to get all these perks starting out.  I’ve heard Tony Allen say the redistricting is the “price for admission” to all the great things WEIC will offer.  But why in the world should Delaware taxpayers pay for one district to receive $6 million while the others have to wait?  We hear a lot of talk about how Wilmington needs less governance.  Allen and Dan Rich talk constantly about how there are 17 governing education bodies in Wilmington between the districts and charters.  So going down to 16 is the answer?

I was unable to attend the WEIC meeting last night, but I did communicate with some of the members through Facebook during the meeting.  My whole beef with this initiative is the lack of basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  For these students, this is their foundation, the building blocks of their future education in Delaware.  These students cannot afford to wait through the Response To Intervention process to “determine” if they should get special education services or not.  You can’t fix disabilities.  While Tony Allen did say he is working on getting this implemented into the state budget, I commented on this Facebook post that it should have ALWAYS been there.  The WEIC plan calls for this to start in Red Clay.  Sorry Mr. Allen, but what about all the other students with disabilities in the state?  Why should all those students be slighted so one district can get millions of dollars for taking $2500 more students, on top of the large increase in regular school funding they will get anyways just by having those 2500 students come into their district?

The biggest disappointment in WEIC for me thus far is their complete and utter failure to look at the elephant in the room: standardized testing.  This has done far more damage to Wilmington schools than anything else since The Neighborhood Schools Act.  And as we have advocates like Dr. Michael Lomax from the United Negro College Fund playing the civil rights and race cards to make sure Wilmington citizens continue to believe the lies about education in our state through the News Journal, the rest of the state has to wonder how much we can afford to “fix” the problems in education while ignoring the biggest problem of them all.  We have a gushing wound here folks, bleeding out faster than we can stop it.  Putting a Band-Aid on part of the wound while the rest bleeds out is not going to do anything.  Nobody wants to make the head-on charge against Governor Markell.  They believe he is infallible.  This ignorance is killing us in Delaware.  This blind loyalty to a man who continues to lead our children into menial jobs with their Common Core foundation is a disaster in the making.  There would be no need for opt-out at all if we can make the changes our state needs in education.

The fact WEIC is even considering making changes to their “final” draft based on the State Board’s cowardly no action is an injustice.  The State Board is going way beyond the scope of the legislation surrounding this, and there are a considerable amount of legal questions surrounding their vote of nothingness.  Forgive me for saying this, but Dan Rich’s voice in Delaware education for well over fifteen years is enough.  What has he done to improve education?  Who is he loyal to?  University of Delaware or Rodel or WEIC or Tony Allen or Wilmington or Governor Markell or the DOE?  See what I’m saying here?  So WEIC changes their “final” draft again, do they allow the local school boards a chance to vote on it or do they just say “Here you go State Board, this is what we came up with.”  Having one member of the Wilmington school boards on the commission does not give those people the power to speak on the board’s behalf with constantly changing plans.  Or maybe this has been the plan all along and we will see the true motivation behind WEIC in these new “final” plans.

If we want to fix Wilmington schools, this is how we do it.  About 8% of Delaware’s education funding comes from Federal dollars.   But 100% of the current problems are coming from their mandates.  Let’s dump the federal funding.  Completely.  Say bye-bye to it and all the poison and vitriol that comes with it.  We are talking about $80 million dollars we just don’t give to our schools.  In return, we also say goodbye to state mandated high-stakes assessments.  That will save us well over $20 million a year.  Since the DOE makes everything about the results of this testing, we would also no longer have a need for all these outside companies coming into Delaware to do their expensive research that tells us nothing new or twists data to make it look like our schools are worse than they already are.  This includes many programs through the University of Delaware.  This saves us another $30 million or more.  The DOE needs some massive trimming.  Since there are so many positions there tied to assessments, teacher evaluations, and professional development, we can easily save about $10 million right there alone.  Since we don’t have this fed money anymore, we get rid of the labels: priority, focus, focus plan, reward, recognition, etc.  All the money that the state ends up paying for that: $2.5 million a year.  The next part is a bit trickier and more complicated.  We need to recognize which legislators are riding Markell’s gravy train to destroy public education in Delaware.  We label them and do everything in our power to make sure they are NOT elected again next November.  Many of these legislators allow all the loopholes in the state budget that benefit charter schools and education reform companies.  We don’t need Longhurst’s ridiculous SAIL program for our kids after school.  We don’t need $11 million going to Delaware STARS for the early childhood education scams.  No more charter school transportation slush funds.  No more charter school “performance” awards.  No more minor capital funding for charter schools.  We rewrite the laws and get all this pork out of our state budget.  Now we have a surplus from this loss of federal funds.  We have more money.  This is where we reallocate this money to all our schools.  We write our own state standards, as far away from Common Core as we can get, and have true stakeholder input to determine what our children need to know.  We find ways to strengthen our teachers by giving them the resources they need: smaller classroom sizes, more support for special education students, and less administrative oversight.  We eliminate the biases for charters and get rid of enrollment preferences.  We take a strong look at our district formation in Delaware and consolidate many of them.  We redraw lines all over the state, not just in Wilmington.  We trash the current concept of school choice and disallow students from travelling out of district to go to different schools.  We find the flaws in our special education and we plug those holes.  We get rid of the cash going to all these administrators whose very jobs were created so students in their districts do better on the state test.  Teachers get to actually engage more with their students.  Students will care more about their education when true equity is realized.  Students who care more will know more and will do better.  That is the goal, not forcing them to care.

If companies like Rodel don’t want to play ball with the way things are done, we just don’t listen to them anymore.  We bite the bullet and call their bluff and say no to the privatization of our schools.  Because that is the end result.  All privatization does is give us more charters who perform the same as the deceased traditional school districts, or ones that are essentially free private schools who cherry-pick their way to the top of the school rankings.  Kind of like the class system in our country: the lower class, the middle class, and the wealthy class.  A lot in the bottom, some in the middle, and very few at the top.  This is the end goal with everything going on in education.  And as that middle class of education shrinks away, we are left with many at the bottom and a small percentage at the top.  This is playing out all over our country, in every single state.  The likelihood of your child getting a good education from the way things are now is getting slimmer by the day.  It isn’t just African-Americans.  It is whites, Hispanics, students with disabilities, low-income/poverty students, all of them.

All of this takes ignoring what those in power are telling us.  Those with money and influence.  If we want education to survive in Delaware and make it more of an equitable chance for our children, now is the time to institute radical change.  Not at the November elections.  Not when Jack Markell leaves office in January of 2017.  Now.  Now is the time.  These are my solutions for Delaware schools.  Not solutions for Red Clay schools with an expectation that the rest will get those solutions down the road.  That is cherry-picking, district style.  We are above that as a state.  Our children deserve better than that.  All students deserve the best education, despite what color or disability or economic background they are from.  So let’s stop using the students who are most at risk and start looking at ALL children as unique and finding out what their individual needs are.  We can’t lump children into a group and say this is what they need.  They are not they.  One student.  One set of needs.  One student at a time.

Poverty Matters! Smarter Balanced Impact: The Sussex Academy Effect

Sussex Academy, the only Delaware charter school in Sussex County, was one of the best Smarter Balanced scoring schools in the entire county.  This is not an accident, nor is it an indication they are the “best” school in the county.  Like the Charter School of Wilmington, Sussex Academy was named in the ACLU lawsuit against the State of Delaware last December for discrimination against minority and special needs students.  Or what the blogosphere collectively calls “cherry-picking”.  The school is smack dab in the middle of Sussex County.

SussexAcademyMap

On the Delaware Department of Education school profiles part of their website, it shows the school’s demographics.  Sussex County has a very large population of Hispanics.  Western Sussex County is considered one of the poorest sections of the state and that trend is expected to increase over time.

SussexAcademyProfile

In previous articles, this blog and Delaware Liberal have focused on New Castle County, Capital School District, and all the Delaware charters.  Our graphs have shown the effect low-income and poverty has on Smarter Balanced performance.  Unfortunately, this trend continues in Sussex County as seen below. Since Sussex Academy is primarily a middle school (although their high school is increasing, with 9th grade added two years ago, 10th grade last year, and 11th grade this year), I ran the graph with just the middle schools surrounding the school.  Sussex Academy appears to be siphoning away the “better” students from their surrounding districts.

SussexCountyPLISBAC

To put this in perspective, Laurel Intermediate School is currently a Priority School in Delaware, which slipped under the radar of most bloggers until recently.  Meanwhile, Sussex Academy is praised by Governor Markell and the Delaware DOE as a great success.  All schools would be considered awesome if they were allowed to do what Sussex Academy does with their application process and mythical “lottery”.  Like Charter School of Wilmington and Newark Charter School to some extent, the veil has been lifted and these schools are not superior schools.  They have merely placed themselves on that stage by picking who they want, and more importantly, who they don’t want.

While their Hispanic population seems high, 9.6%, compared to many of the other schools, it is very low.  Sussex Academy is in Georgetown, the same as Georgetown Middle School.  Watch what happens…

SussexHispanic

In theory then, does the same hold true for the percentage of English Language Learners in Sussex County?  Not exactly.  Even though a few schools have less Hispanic students, Sussex Academy has the lowest percentage of English Language Learners.

SussexELL

How does Sussex Academy compare to the other schools with special education?  I’m sure you know the answer already, but there is a very wide margin between the school and the others.

SussexSpecEd

In fact, they are in the low single-digits compared to the schools surrounding them.  When I see this, it always reminds me of the scene in Forrest Gump, when young Forrest tries to find a seat on the bus and the one kids says to him “Can’t sit here.”  This is what Sussex Academy does with their blatant discrimination against low-income students, Hispanics, and students with disabilities.  But I’m sure they will be recognized as a “reward” or “recognition” school for their exemplary performance…

Newark Charter School’s Greg Meece Boasting About High “Smarter” Scores After Meltdown Over News Journal Exclusion

cherrypicking

No less than five people sent me this email yesterday.  Apparently, Newark Charter School Head Greg Meece had a hissy-fit of epic proportions that NCS wasn’t included in the original News Journal story about the Smarter Balanced Assessment results.  As a result, he got this email out to parents yesterday:

From: Newark Charter School <notifications@schoolconnectsweb.com>
Date: Thu, Sep 3, 2015 at 12:00 PM
Subject: NCS Smarter Balanced Test Scores
To:

Dear NCS Families,

Yesterday the Delaware Department of Education released all public schools’ Smarter Balanced test results for the 2014-2015 school year. The News Journal printed a three page report of these scores in this morning’s paper. Unfortunately, for some reason they omitted all of Newark Charter School’s data. I understand they will print a correction in tomorrow’s paper. Also, the correct information is included on delawareonline.

Because of the omission in the newspaper I am sending you all of Newark Charter School’s Smarter Balanced test results in this attachment. It includes comparisons to the State of Delaware results. The wonderful news is that Newark Charter School’s average proficiency rates across all grades are the highest in Delaware!  Our students’ math scores are 116.8% higher than the state average and their English Language Arts scores are 79.4% higher than the state average.

WE are so proud of our students’ performance and very grateful to our teachers for all their hard work in preparing our kids to do their best.

Thank you for all you do to support this great school.

With much appreciation,

Greg Meece

I guess I would be upset too if my school got great results and wasn’t included. But you have to be careful what you ask for, because while his school did great, we have to add the charter school “special sauce” to the stew. On the DOE website, they list the school profiles for each school or district. This is Newark Charter School’s demographics. Compared to most Wilmington schools, these are very low percentages. With the exception being certain other charter schools and magnets in the area.

Enrollment by Race/Ethnicity
2013-14 2014-15
African American 11.0% 11.4%
American Indian 0.2% 0.3%
Asian 13.4% 12.9%
Hispanic/Latino 4.0% 4.4%
White 65.8% 65.2%
Multi-Racial 5.6% 5.6
Other Student Characteristics
2013-14 2014-15
English Language Learner 2.7% 2.5%
Low Income 8.4% 7.2%
Special Education 5.7% 5.6%
Enrolled for Full Year 100.0% N/A

I guess we could all do awesome on high-stakes testing with these kinds of students! And lest we forget, this school has a “lottery”. And I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’m willing to sell at a cheap price…

Say, isn’t the Enrollment Preference Task Force report coming out at the end of the month?

UPDATED, 2:23pm, 9/4/15: A commenter suggested I use Christina School District as comparison data, which is an excellent idea!  Keep in mind, most students who don’t go to Newark Charter School or other charters in the area would go to their feeder pattern in the Christina School District, which has their demographics below.

Enrollment by Race/Ethnicity
2013-14 2014-15
African American 40.6% 39.8%
American Indian 0.3% 0.2%
Asian 4.4% 4.4%
Hawaiian 0.1% 0.1%
Hispanic/Latino 18.8% 20.4%
White 32.8% 31.7%
Multi-Racial 2.9% 3.4%
Other Student Characteristics
2013-14 2014-15
English Language Learner 8.5% 8.3%
Low Income 43.6% 41.0%
Special Education 17.0% 17.9%
Enrolled for Full Year 100.0% N/A