Legislation Aims To Have Teacher Of The Year & A Delaware Student On The State Board of Education

How did I miss this one?  It was filed last week!  Not only would this add two new members to the State Board of Education but could also make the State Board of Education a wandering event!

House Bill #455, filed last week by State Rep. Stephanie Bolden and Senator Jack Walsh, comes from the Joint Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee.  The two new members would be non-voting but it could certainly create lively conversation at these meetings!  It also gives clarity around who the Executive Director reports to and who their employer would be.  The legislation calls for the State Board of Ed to meet in the three different counties which would, by default, cause Delaware Dept. of Education employees to travel with them.  Very interesting bill.

This Act fulfills recommendations made by the Joint Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee by doing the following: (1) Establishing 2 new, nonvoting members to serve on the State Board of Education (“Board”). The new members are a former Delaware Teacher of the Year and a Delaware 11th or 12th grade student. (2) Defining the duties of the Board’s Executive Director. (3) Clarifying that the Executive Director is selected by the Board; is an employee of the Department of Education, subject to all of the Department’s employment policies and procedures; but serves at the pleasure of the Board. (4) Requiring the Board to rotate its meetings among the 3 counties of this State in such a way to facilitate parents’, teachers’, and other community members’ attendance. (5) Establishing the circumstances under which a Board member may be removed, using language standard to boards and commissions in this State. (6) Requiring the Board to permit public comment on each agenda item prior to voting on the item and in proximity to the time at which the Board discusses the item. An exception is provided if, under Delaware law or Department or Board rules, the item has a formal comment period or a process for making a record in an administrative matter that has closed before the Board’s discussion of the agenda item. Examples of matters that qualify for the exception include charter school applications or formal reviews, amendments to Department of Education and Professional Standards Board regulations, and student appeals. The intent of the exception is to exclude Board actions that are quasi-judicial in nature and therefore not appropriate to open to public comment. This Act also corrects 2 internal references and makes other technical corrections to conform existing law to the standards of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual.   

To read the actual legal language of the bill, go here: House Bill 455

As I reported earlier today, Governor Carney will have three nominations for the Delaware Senate to confirm by June 30th which would restore the State Board of Education to their seven members after some unexpected resignations in the past couple of months.  I still think ALL members of the State Board of Education should be publicly elected.

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Fundraiser Fun At Fraziers!

Tonight I did something different.  I attended the Kent County Democrat fundraiser at Fraziers in Dover.  It was very last minute and I figured why the heck not.  I will get this off my chest first- I’m not a fundraiser kind of guy.  I went in shorts and a shirt.  I met a lot of candidates.  Some snubbed me.  Either they don’t know who I am or they do.  We all make choices.  Good luck getting my vote!  That’s all I’m going to say on that.  Okay, I’m lying.

For those who know me and where my passions lie, it begins with education.  First and foremost.  My thought has always been if you can’t make the right choices for kids, you shouldn’t be in office.  When I hit the voting booth, my vote is going to be for who I feel is the best candidate and will get the job done.  I’ll switch parties when I hit those buttons.  I don’t care.  So if I’m at a fundraiser, I’m not your money guy.  But I watch.  I listen.  I see who is talking to who.  Who is pandering and who is listening.

During Trump’s run for President, I switched to the Democrat party from Republican.  Neither Hillary or Trump were getting my vote.  Pure and simple.  I got some flack for that from some folks but that’s okay.  It’s my choice.  It is MY vote.  But it does not mean I always support what Democrats do.  The same philosophy applies to the Republicans as well.  Who and what am I?  I’m a wildcard.  I’m the guy you didn’t see coming.  I’m the guy who doesn’t care who I piss off on this blog if I think the decisions you make are bad for kids.  But that isn’t all politics is about.  For me it is, but for most education isn’t at the top of their thought process.  I do vote on other issues besides education.  But education is a HUGE factor.

Based on tonight, I know this blog will have tons of endorsements coming out in the next month or so.

Fundraisers are interesting events.  For the candidates, it is getting your name out there.  For the party or campaign team, it is about the money.  For people like me?  It is a blogger bonanza!  Showing up is the first thing.  But showing up and leaving before it is your chance to talk?  That is some bad mojo coming your way.  Giving me the evil eye when you were there.  Twice as bad.  It’s all good though.  I’m okay with knowing who doesn’t like me.  It just affirms what I may have written about you.  I’m not naming names but what is the abbreviation for microgram?  And for another candidate in that particular race, even if you KNOW I’m supporting your opposition for a three-way statewide primary, don’t just walk past me when I say hello to you because I will talk about it on here.  See what I did there guy with the same initials as Denzel Washington?

I’m babbling.  Far too many Swedish meatballs at the fundraiser.  And Fraziers makes the BEST Swedish meatballs!

If you had told me four years ago Donald Trump would be President I would have told you to lay off the peace pipe.  Even if I came around to that idea and you told me that same President Trump would snub our allies and shake hands with the little boy from North Korea the next day I would have said you were crazy.  But this is the reality we live in.  It’s like Twin Peaks and The Twilight Zone had a one-night stand and created the worst nightmare I’ve ever seen.  The oompa-loompa may be riding a red wave right now but what goes up must come down.

Some of my endorsements might surprise long-time readers of this blog.  It’s not personal.  It is politics.  Anyone coming into a race and expecting 100% of the vote is off their rocker!  That’s what makes America great.  It will be an interesting time between now and September, and then after the Primary heading into the General Election.

For candidates, I will be sending out surveys shortly.  Even if you don’t think I will support you, know that I have a vast readership who might.  I like to call it nearly every teacher in the state!  They are going to want to hear from you.  If there is one thing I’ve learned from teachers, it is this: they vote!

So here we are.  Four years ago today I made my first trip to Legislative Hall.  It was raining and I was carrying a sign outside in support of the school board audio recording legislation.  It was my way of thanking Kilroy’s Delaware for letting me write on his blog before I started this one.  That bill didn’t pass that session.  It did the next one.  Sometimes you just have to be patient.  A lot of the faces I met that day won’t be there next January.  The most important thing, no matter what political party you align with, is this: get your facts straight.  Do the research.  Who is doing it for the power and who wants to get in there and make change.  Vote with your conscience, not your allegiance.  Get involved.

I will get an insane amount of grief for this next line, but let’s make America centrist again!  We need balance.  One-party rule is not good for this country at all.  It isn’t always good for Delaware either.  We live in interesting times.

P.S.: To the candidate who had the conversation with me about FOIA- that was fun!

An Open Letter From State Rep. Earl Jaques About The School District Consolidation Task Force

I just received this email in regards to the School District Consolidation Task Force and where it will go from here:

School District Consolidation Task Force – HCR 39

A Letter from the Chair – Rep. Earl G. Jaques, Jr. 

September 20, 2017 

I have gotten a lot of questions from task force members and those who attended this week’s meeting about the path of this task force moving forward. Where are we going from here? 

I thought it would be helpful to review what we have achieved so far as a task force and outline my goals for our future meetings. 

Our first two meetings have been focused mainly on organizational matters.  At the first meeting we elected the Task Force Chair as required by HCR 39. Then we established four sub-committees (Academics/Student Needs, Finance, Teachers/Staff, and Structure). These four sub-committees are being led by four outstanding individuals with extensive knowledge and experience in their fields. In order to include a diversity of opinions and perspectives, we added additional members to the original 22 members designated by HCR 39. At our second meeting, we approved these additional members to give us a group with backgrounds and experiences from across our state.  

To ensure transparency, we have put all minutes, power point slides and other related material on our designated section on the legislative website; more materials will be uploaded to this site soon. To view the documents uploaded please scroll to the bottom of the page to “Minutes, Reports, and Information.” In addition, all materials have been sent to every member of the taskforce and those members of the public who asked to be included on the email lists. In cooperation with our statewide media partners we were able to get the citizens of Delaware to provide us with their ideas, suggestions and comments on what they would like to see happen with our school districts. We received 146 different written responses.  

This past Monday we hosted a task force meeting in Sussex County to receive verbal comments from county residents. At this meeting David Blowman, from the Department of Education, presented an overview of our state’s districts, schools and students with some informative graphs and maps. The response to his presentation was overwhelmingly positive, so much so that members present expressed their wishes for residents in Kent and New Castle Counties to have the opportunity to view it as well.

In accordance with this feedback, we plan to hold the same meeting at William Penn High School (October 16th) for New Castle County residents and then shortly after that meeting to hold one again for Kent County residents. In order to give residents of each county the opportunity to view the presentation and share their thoughts we have decided to move the meeting schedule a bit.

Instead of waiting until November to meet as a full task force as was originally planned, the Kent County meeting will be moved to October 25th at Caesar Rodney High School. Then the full task force will meet in early November (details TBA) to vote on the various plans suggested so that the sub-committees can start their work. I envision this vote as being one where 2-3 proposals are chosen to be explored and modeled and compared with the current system. This is a very important topic and so our work cannot be rushed. I will ensure that sub-committees have adequate time to complete their work while also making sure that public submissions and comments are properly heard. 

Once the sub-committees’ work is completed we will meet as a full task force to determine the feasibility of the various components and discuss recommendations to be included in our final report to the State Legislature. 

I look forward to continue working with all of you on this very important issue area. If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to reach out to me or my legislative aide, Madinah Wilson-Anton.

Respectfully Signed,

Earl Jaques

27th Representative District

School District Consolidation Task Force & Sub-Committees Meeting Schedule & How YOU Can Help!

The Delaware School District Consolidation Task Force, as authorized by House Concurrent Resolution #39, is in full swing.  Whatever that means!  But below is a list of ALL the meetings scheduled to date.  No sane person could possibly attend all of them.  I’m sure someone will try though.  Not this guy!  The first sub-committee meeting for the Structure group met last Monday, August 28th.  All meetings are open to the public and public comment will be allowed.  Whether you agree or not with district consolidation, make your voice heard.  I like that the main task force group is utilizing schools from each county.  Below the schedule is information the task force wants from YOU!

District Consolidation Task Force

Monday, September 18th, 6:30pm, Woodbridge High School, Bridgeville, DE

Monday, October 16th, 6:30pm, William Penn High School, New Castle, DE

Thursday, November 16th, 6:30pm, Caesar Rodney High School, Camden, DE

Academic & Children Needs Sub-Committee

Wednesday, September 13th, 6:30-8:30pm, Library Conference Room, Dept. of Education, Townsend Bldg., Dover, DE

Monday, October 2nd, 6:30-8:30pm, Georgetown Middle School, Georgetown, DE

Tuesday, November 7th, 6:30-8:30pm, Independence Conference Room, Carvel Bldg., N. French St., Wilmington, DE

Monday, December 4th, 6:30-8:30pm, Cabinet Room, Delaware Dept. of Education, Townsend Bldg., Dover, DE

Finance Sub-Committee

Thursday, September 7th, 9:00-11:00am, Government Center, 87 Reads Way, New Castle, DE

Thursday, October 5th, 9:00-11:00am, Office of Management and Budget, Haslet Armory, 3rd Floor, Dover, DE

Thursday, November 9th, 4:30-6:30pm, Government Center, 87 Reads Way, New Castle, DE

Thursday, December 7th, 4:30-6:30pm, Office of Management and Budget, Haslet Armory, 3rd Floor, Dover, DE

Structure Sub-Committee

Met on August 28th

Wednesday, September 27th, 6:30-8:30pm, St. George’s Technical High School, Middletown, DE

Teachers & Staff Sub-Committee

Monday, September 11th, 5:00-7:00pm, Colonial School District offices, 318 E. Basin Rd., New Castle, DE

no other future meetings known as of yet

 

I will pin this article to the top of the blog and will update meetings as the information becomes available.

 

As well, State Rep. Earl Jaques is looking for YOUR suggestions on how a district consolidation would take place.  Below is a Suggestion Graphic which, should you choose to participate, would need to be sent back by September 11th.  This would be up for discussion at the next regular Task Force meeting, on September 18th.

Feel free to slice and dice the State of Delaware any way you want for this.  But take it seriously.  You never know… your suggestion could become the final outcome!  I am a member of the Finance Sub-Committee but will be paying attention to every meeting taking place.  Sorry I missed the first Structure Sub-Committee meeting!  To find out more information about the Task Force, please go here.

 

 

Here Comes The School District Consolidation Task Force!

House Concurrent Resolution #39 would create a School District Consolidation Task Force.  Yes, another task force in Delaware.  Because we must always have a group of people sitting around a table before we can do anything.  This task force would study if it is worth consolidating school districts in Delaware.  This is something I actually favor.  Nineteen school districts in little old Delaware?  There are school districts in other states with more students than the entire student population of Delaware.  I believe it will happen, but the question is how many?  I don’t think there should be more than five.  Expect a lot of battles on this one.  I am fairly sure nineteen superintendents won’t want to give up their titles.  Some would have to if this went through.  This will be one of the hottest topics in the second leg of the 149th General Assembly beginning in January, 2018.  I’m calling it now!

Where it goes from here is the House Education Committee.  It is on the agenda for the meeting tomorrow (must be nice to be the Sponsor of the bill AND the Chair of the Committee).  But tomorrow is the last day of committee meetings before the General Assembly closes up shop this year so this is my guestimation on what will happen: clears House Education Committee, gets a House vote in the affirmative, gets sent to Senate Education Committee, a suspension of rules allows it to bypass the committee, Senate votes yes, and the task force gets going late summer/early fall.

 

School After Labor Day Bill NOT Released From House Education Committee

I had a sneaky feeling this was going to be the outcome on this bill.  While Senate Bill 161, sponsored by State Senator Gerald Hocker, passed the Delaware Senate last week, it did not have the required votes to get out of the House Education Committee.  Since the bill passed last week in the Senate, a growing chorus of opponents to the bill reached out and feel this kind of decision should be made by local school district boards of education.  They did not feel this should be a statewide decision.  Currently, some districts in Sussex County already begin school after Labor Day.  Once the official details on the vote count in the House Education Committee come out, I will update this article.  It appears only 3 or 4 of the legislators in the committee were in support of the bill which is far short of the But for now, it appears there will be no more action on this controversial legislation.

Senate Bill 161 had a good ride, and I thought it may have a shot.  But many of the members of the House Education Committee are fervent supporters of local control as opposed to state control.  We can consider this matter closed.  Until the 149th General Assembly that is!

School After Labor Day Bill Coming To House Education Committee

Almost two weeks after the Delaware Senate narrowly passed a bill which would mandate all Delaware schools would begin after Labor Day, the bill is heading to the House Education Committee on Wednesday, June 28th.  The underdog of the 148th General Assembly received a boost of life when the Senate passed the bill with an 11-10 vote.  The majority of the votes were not split between party, but rather location in Delaware.  Most of the New Castle County Senators voted no while their counterparts in the Kent and Sussex counties voted yes.  If we see a similar pattern with the House, this bill is going to Governor Markell’s desk by July 1st at the latest!  It will be interesting to hear the state union’s (DSEA) take on the bill since they will have to represent each school district.  Out of Delaware’s 19 school districts, only 6 reside in New Castle County.

HouseEdComm628

Other bills that will be heard are House Bill 374 which would limit the term of school board seats to four years instead of five and Senate Bill 199 dealing with educator licensure and certification.

Delaware Senate Passes The “No School Until After Labor Day” Bill With Close Vote

The Delaware Senate passed State Senator Gerald Hocker’s Senate Bill 161, which would prevent Delaware public schools from opening before Labor Day.  It barely passed though.  11 voted yes while 10 voted no.  Many of the no votes were from Senators who live in New Castle County, while most of the yes votes live in Kent or Sussex County.  It can be rare to see a Delaware bill split based on the location of the legislators, but this one definitely fits that scenario.

The bill will now make a trip to the House Education Committee.  If it is released from committee, it will be interesting to see how the vote splits in the House.  But they better hurry as the legislative session ends on June 30th!

Statewide Review Of Education Opportunities Highlights Charter School Cherry-Picking & Creaming

cherrypicking

Among the other controversial and disturbing events at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting yesterday, there was a presentation by the Public Consulting Group (PCG) on the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities (SREO) for Delaware Schools.  This was a review requested by Governor Jack Markell last March to figure out which schools are getting it right.  When it comes right down to it, this report was a series of graphs showing demographics of school districts and charters and which schools have things like AP classes and Career-Technical education opportunities.  All of this is based in 2014-2015 data.  This report cost Delaware taxpayers $70,000.00.

Last September, I worked with Delaware Liberal and Delaware First State in creating graphs of the Smarter Balanced Assessment results and how low-income, minorities, and students with disabilities fared poorly on the controversial test.  It also showed how schools with low populations of these sub-groups did really good on the test.

The below PCG reports clearly show the divide in Delaware, especially with certain charters in our state: Charter School of Wilmington, Newark Charter School, Delaware Military Academy, Odyssey Charter School, and Sussex Academy.  The result: complete chaos in Delaware.  While the effect of this is not as clearly felt in Kent County, it has created havoc in Wilmington and lower Sussex County.  If anyone actually believes the lotteries in these schools are random and fair, take a close look at the graphs in these reports.  They select, hand-pick and cherry-pick.  They cream from the top applicants.  And many charters in our state weed out the “bad” students by using their “counseling out” technique.  To some extent, the magnet schools in Red Clay and Indian River do this as well.

The reports give a well-crafted illusion that we have too many schools in Delaware.  This foregone conclusion is, in my opinion, trying to please the charter supporters in our state.  It talks about high demand and wait lists at certain charters and indicates there are too many “empty seats” in Delaware traditional schools.  Do not be fooled by this illusion.  Yes, some charters are in high demand because of the illusions cast by the State and the charter community on their perceived success based on standardized test scores.  I’m going to call this the “smart flight” as many parents pulled their kids out of traditional and even private schools over the past twenty years and sent their kids to charters.  This resulted in funds pouring out of the traditional districts while the state was slowly decreasing the amount they gave schools in the state.  This increased the amount of local dollars the districts had to use to run their schools.   Meanwhile, Common Core, Race To The Top, DSPT, DCAS, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment wormed their way into our lives causing even more funding to be siphoned from the classroom.  All of this created a perfect storm in Delaware culminating into a hurricane of inequity, discrimination, and segregation.  While Governor Markell did not influence these events twenty years ago, he certainly has been a major part of it for well over ten years, even before he became Governor.

This report could be read in many ways, but if I were reading as an outside observer looking into Delaware, I would be highly concerned.  We have charters with hardly any African-Americans and students with disabilities.  We have other charters with very high populations of the two.  We have a Department of Education, State Board of Education, and a General Assembly who allowed this to happen by falling asleep at the wheel.  We have the highly controversial Wilmington Education Improvement Commission attempting to redraw Wilmington school districts without guaranteed funding to support it.  We have companies like Rodel, the Longwood Foundation, and the Welfare Foundation pouring money into charters and influencing events behind the scenes and right in our faces.  We have key people in our state who are part of national education cabals molding education policy with the public oblivious to all of this.  We have outside companies coming into our state, taking our money, and creating reports on things we either already know or creating illusions designed to brainwash the populace.  This is Delaware education.

How Does The Rest Of Delaware Feel About Higher Property Assessments To Fund Our Schools?

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission is proposing a plan for funding of the redistricting effort currently in the planning stages.  WEIC wants the state to look at increasing property assessments to raise more funding for our schools.  How do you feel about this?  With Wilmington schools as a test for a weighted formula funding, which would start there first, will Kent and Sussex counties support this without more funding going to their own schools?  WEIC does not have any true stakeholder input from Kent or Sussex right now.  I urge every Delaware citizen to read the below document and let WEIC know how you feel about this, as well as your state legislators.  Because if the State Board of Education passes this plan, it will go to the 148th General Assembly for a vote.

Mapleton Charter Wants To Open Discovery Charter School In Dover

Get ready Dover!  Mapleton Charter School of Whitehall wants to change their name to Discovery Charter School and open up in Dover, Delaware.  A decision will be made my the December State Board of Education meeting on December 17th.  This would be the 4th regular charter school to open in Dover if approved, following Campus Community, Academy of Dover, and Early College High School.  They also want to lower their enrollment from 600 to 450 because of the demographics of Dover.

Mapleton Charter Submits Major Modification To Move To Kent County, Lower Enrollment & Change Name

At yesterday’s Delaware State Board of Education meeting, it was announced the Mapleton Charter School of Whitehall submitted a major modification request on 9/16.  Mapleton is looking to move to Kent County, lower it’s enrollment and change it’s name.  While the last is not part of a major modification, the Charter School Office at the DOE is rolling it all into one big request.  The school is scheduled to open in the 2016-2017 academic year.

From my recollection, this would be the first time a charter has switched locations to a different county in Delaware.  Kent County currently has six charter schools: Campus Community, Providence Creek Academy, Academy of Dover, Positive Outcomes, First State Military Academy and Early College High School.  Three of them are in Dover, two in Smyrna, and one in Camden-Wyoming.  The only other charter school south of the Caesar Rodney School District is Sussex Academy, in the heart of Indian River School District.

Jennifer Nagourney, the Director of the Charter School Office, said it would be up on the Charter School website, but she also emphasized this is a very large application to which State Board member Pat Heffernan advised Nagourney to “get her reading glasses.”  I can’t wait to see it though.  I would love to know where they are planning to locate in Kent County.  I know Kendall Massett published an editorial on Town Square Delaware over a year ago about needing more charters in Kent and Sussex County.  While the bulk of Delaware’s charters are in New Castle County, and more specifically, Wilmington, two of the new charters that opened this year went on formal review due to low enrollment.  They made it out of that status, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Mapleton saw this happening and started making new plans.

I’m sure we will have more answers next week.  If I were a betting man, I would guess we could say them looking to move to southern Kent County.  But this is all guesswork on my end.  If this were the case, and I’m not saying it is, this could affect enrollment in Caesar Rodney, Lake Forest and Milford school districts the most.  And any location would of course be based on approval by the State Board of Education.  The State Board previously approved their application to begin as a K-2 school, with an enrollment of 100 in each grade.  Each successive year, the school will add the next grade going up to 5th grade in four years for a total of 600 students by 2020.  But of course, if the major modification is approved, their enrollment will be less. And obviously, their Middletown area location would be different.  And they probably don’t want to call it Mapleton Charter School at Whitehall if they aren’t in Whitehall.

Ironically enough, Mapleton’s Chair of their Board of Directors is Dr. Michael Stetter.  Stetter used to work at the Delaware DOE as their Director of Accountability Resources and

Well, What If We Merged All The Districts In Kent And Sussex Counties

Apparently, this topic actually came up tonight at the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission.  But it’s been looked at before.  Way back in the early years of the 21st Century, the 141st General Assembly passed House Resolution #54.  This resolution directed the Secretary of Education to do a feasibility study on the possibility of consolidating all the school districts in Kent and Sussex.  The Secretary did it, and, well, look what happened…

Poverty Matters! The Smarter Balanced Impact: Delaware Charter Schools

charterPovertyCorrected

According to Delaware Governor Jack Markell, throwing our hands up with poverty is a recipe for the status quo.  As we can see in the above chart, poverty had a tremendous impact in Delaware charter schools.  The higher the low-income status, the lower the Smarter Balanced Assessment scores.  There is no hiding this.  Even the highly-praised EastSide Charter School was not immune to the wrath of the high-stakes test.  Below is part of Governor Markell’s speech he gave at the Imagine Delaware Forum in March of this year:

One of the reasons that we often hear for the struggle of our kids in the inner-city schools is poverty. And it is absolutely true that poverty presents enormous, enormous challenges for many children across our state. They face barriers to learning that the rest of us can’t imagine. And that’s why we need to do everything in our power to lift our children and our families out of poverty and to reach these children from the beginning of their lives, to counter the effects of growing up poor. And we are committed to addressing the root causes of poverty, by increasing access to the best early-learning programs, by investing in economic development and reducing crime and battling the addiction epidemic, and more. But as we pursue these goals we can’t delay improvements to the education kids in these communities receive. I, and I know that many of you, refuse to throw up our hands and say that we can’t truly improve education in these schools as long as poverty exists. That’s a recipe for the status quo, a recipe for fewer of our most vulnerable children to get the skills they need to escape poverty.

What Governor Markell seems to lack insight into or just plain ignores is the impact of poverty on children’s education.  It isn’t something “rigor” and “grit” can fix.  It’s a matter of increasing the funding to these schools, and not under the guise of priority schools or focus schools.  It means lowering the size of classrooms, increasing special education funding, and judging children based on a once a year test the clearly shows how much poverty does matter.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment is not improving education. It is making it more difficult for schools to get the true reform they need.  The Delaware Department of Education will be releasing their school report cards with the Smarter Balanced Assessment carrying most of the weight for school grades.  This is highly destructive to schools that do not do well on this test.  With the Delaware DOE and the State Board of Education pushing Regulation 103 into state code, we need parents to see how that will affect all school districts in Delaware.

This is just the first of many articles based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment and how it affects students of low-income status, students with disabilities, and the most vulnerable minorities in our state.  In conjunction with Delaware Liberal, Exceptional Delaware will be publishing articles in the coming week on this high-stakes testing epidemic that is destroying schools in our state.  This very unique “blog crossover” will paint the picture the Delaware Department of Education doesn’t want the public to see.  But numbers don’t lie.  They present facts that cannot be disputed.  Please come to Delaware Liberal and here to see further articles “Poverty Matters! The Smarter Balanced Impact”.  Delaware Liberal will be covering New Castle County while Exceptional Delaware will be covering Kent and Sussex Counties.  We may cross reference each other here and there, and I highly recommend reading what they have to write, especially with all the potential redistricting in Wilmington and the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission.

A very special thanks to the always awesome Pandora and LiberalGeek from Delaware Liberal, Brian Stephan of the excellent blog Those In Favor, and Delaware State Representative Kim Williams for their assistance in the data collection and formation of the graphs in this series.  This is truly a collaborative effort on all ends, and Delaware is a better place for it!

2015 Title I Allocations For ALL Delaware Districts And Charters

Yesterday, I wrote an article about Capital School District’s $330,000 loss in Title I funding, but the actual amount they lost was a little bit higher.  The amount they lost, the highest loss in the state, was $338,093.00.  Which school district had the biggest gain?  Which charter gets the most, and which gets NO Title I funding?  Find out here:

Yes, Charter School of Wilmington gets NO Title I federal funds.  A public school in Wilmington!  After Capital, it looks like Smyrna, Lake Forest and Seaford took pretty big hits in Title I cuts.  But nothing compares to Capital, which lost three times the second highest loss.  It doesn’t look like opt-out will cause a district to lose federal funds, when a new formula will do it all by itself.  Last year, the Feds changed the Title I formula from basing the number of students who receive “free and reduced lunch” at their school to the number of students whose families get special services from the state which accounts for an overall loss of Title I funds for the state of $600,000.

The bulk of the losses are occurring in Kent and Sussex counties, while all of the New Castle County districts saw an increase.  Does this mean poverty is increasing in New Castle and decreasing in Kent and Sussex?

Governor Markell Wants A Conversation But Parents MUST Be An Equal Party

From the Delaware.gov website, my thoughts on the bottom.

Governor Initiates Statewide Plan for Future Education Offerings

Date Posted: Thursday, March 19th, 2015
Categories:  News Office of Governor Markell

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Announces review of public schools and programs to address unmet student needs

Dover, DE – Governor Markell today announced a needs assessment and strategic planning process for the future of Delaware public schools, including charter, vocational-technical, and magnet schools. The State will review current opportunities available to students, analyze trends, and quantify areas of unmet needs for Delaware families.

“Many amazing schools and programs across the state are offering students diverse and innovative opportunities to meet their individual needs,” said Markell. “However, not all of our students have access to the programs of their choice. Many schools are oversubscribed and should be expanded or replicated. At the same time, we don’t want our districts to start new programs, and we don’t want to open new charter and magnet schools, if families aren’t asking for what they offer.

“This effort will ensure that state and district plans are designed to best meet individual students’ needs and spark their interests.”

Launching the effort during a meeting of the State Board of Education, the Governor specifically referenced the tremendous progress made at Vo Tech schools in each county, noting that they don’t have the capacity to serve all of the students who select them in the school choice process.

Other trends include four new middle and high schools that will open in the City of Wilmington this fall, reflecting the desire for new options in the city. In addition, programs focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills that are needed for jobs in growing industries, like those offered at Conrad Schools of Science, as well as the college prep courses at Mount Pleasant High School, have garnered increased interest. However, no process has existed to systematically ensure that more students can gain from the experiences they want at traditional, magnet, and charter schools.

The strategic plan developed through the Governor’s Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities for Delaware Students will quantify programs where demand exceeds the state’s capacity and analyze demographic trends to project future needs. That will help the state, school districts, and charter school operators know where and how to invest, from which dual-enrollment programs are most valuable and popular to the types of curriculum from which more students would benefit.

“For the past two years, the State Board of Education has referenced the need for the state to develop a comprehensive analysis of our portfolio of public schools, a thorough needs assessment to identify strengths, weaknesses, saturations, as well as opportunities for success and innovation,” said Teri Quinn Grey, President of the State Board of Education President. “We believe that such an analysis would aid the state in the development of this strategic plan, as well as be a useful tool for local boards and school leaders in deciding school programming decisions, facility decisions, and other educational opportunities. It also will be a tool to be utilized by policy leaders, community members, and businesses to evaluate opportunities for further investment and expansion in Delaware.”

The review announced today was inspired by a proposal by the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee (WEAC) – a group formed by the Governor last year that has urged the state to be smarter and more strategic about the growth of educational opportunities, particularly for charter schools in Wilmington. Markell said he agreed with the Committee’s recommendation, but also believes we can’t limit this effort to one city or county, or to charter schools alone.

“It can benefit our education system statewide,” said Markell. “All schools are part of the solution.”

WEAC Chair Tony Allen voiced support for expanding on the group’s recommendation.

“There is no question that charter schools will remain a critical part of public education in Delaware and that many students throughout the state will be served by them, and in many cases served well,” said Allen. “However, we cannot continue to operate two systems with little interaction and coordination and expect the quality benefits that all of our children deserve. It is our hope that a plan for charter schools extends itself to public education in Delaware broadly and forces stronger collaboration across the traditional district, charter and vo-tech boundaries.”

Representative Charles Potter Jr. (D-Wilmington North), who the Governor recognized at the event for his advocacy in establishing WEAC as an opportunity for members of the community to have a stronger voice on issues involving education of Wilmington children, voiced his support of the plan as well.

“I’m in support of the governor’s efforts to undertake this statewide strategic plan,” said Rep. Potter. “I feel strongly that we have to take a comprehensive look at what is happening in Wilmington and address those issues as well.”

It sounds like someone is realizing education is a mess in this state.  I think the people are the ones who need to control this conversation though.  For every person in this group, you need to have an EQUAL and state-wide amount of parents.  And not parents who are in this group or that group.  I’ve been to meetings like that.  We need down to earth, grassroots parents.  It is very easy to pick out the good and capitalize on that, but if you aren’t looking at the bad, the rot will still be there.

Nobody knows children like a child’s parent.  I defy you to find anyone that knows more than a parent that loves their child.  I think we are willing to hear a conversation, but we want to be an EQUAL part of it.  Otherwise, this just isn’t going to work Governor Markell.

 

The Complete 2015 Delaware School Board Candidate List

If it’s March in Delaware, it must be school board filing season.  The hottest race appears to be Appoquinimink with eight candidates filing for one seat.  Indian River looks to have a lot of activity.  I predict Capital will be a very big election, as well as Red Clay.  Christina gets another George Evans term, marking the 5 billionth year he has served on the board.  There is only one election where nobody filed.  If a name is in italics, that means they can save their money and not worry about putting up any signs, cause they have it in the bag, unless nobody votes for them.

NEW CASTLE COUNTY

Appoquinimink: “At Large”, expires 2020- Michelle Wall, Tara Greathouse, Debbie Harrington, Ryan Scott, Mark Heck, Joanne Christian, Dainelle Hampton-Morton, William Weller

Brandywine: “District B”-  expires 2020- Arthur Kirksey, Kristen Pidgeon, John Pierson

“District E”-  expires 2020- Karen Gordon, Diana Hornung-Hamsby

Christina: “District A”-  expires 2020- George Evans

Colonial: “District B”- expires 2020- Ronald Pierce, Margaret Lucille Kennedy

“District D”, expires 2020- Nobody Filed

Red Clay Consolidated: “District B”, expires 2020- Caleb Brokaw (withdrew), Martin Wilson Sr., Alfred Lance Jr.

“District D”, expires 2020- Catherine Thompson

KENT COUNTY

Caesar Rodney: “At Large”, expires 2020- William Bush III, Kevin Birney

Capital: “At Large”, expires 2020- Sharese Paylor, Ralph Taylor, Peter Servon

Lake Forest: “At Large”, expires 2016- Earle Dempsey, Elizabeth Brode

“At Large”, expires 2018- Austin Auen, Andrea Miller

“At Large”, expires 2020- James Rau

Milford: “At Large”, expires 2020- Kent DelRossi, Ronald Evans Jr., K. Yvette Dennehy

Smyrna: “At Large”, expires 2020- Christine Malec

SUSSEX COUNTY

Cape Henlopen: “At Large”, expires 2020- Roni Posner, Carl Smink, Jose Saez

“Area B”, expires 2020-  Jason Bradley, Gary Wray

Delmar: “At Large”, expires 2020- Becky Neubert, Raymond Vincent Jr.

Indian River: “District 1”, expires 2020- James Hudson, Miguel Pirez-Fabar, James Fritz

“District 2”, expires 2020- Shaun Fink

“District 4”, expires 2020- Judith Teoli, Mary Langan, Gregory Goldman, Charles Bireley, Lloyd Elling

Laurel: “At Large”, expires 2020- Brent Nichols, Kimberly Trivits, John Bowden

Seaford: “At Large”, expires 2020- Jeffrey Benson

Woodbridge: “At Large”, expires 2020- Walter Gilefski, Bernard Carr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Live From The DE PTA Kent County Parent Opt Out Town Hall

The meeting just started.  Dr. Terri Hodges, President of the DE PTA will be moderating.  Due to bad weather up North, some of the members of the panel couldn’t make it.  Aside from Hodges, we have Yvonne Johnson, Donna Johnson (no relation), Brian Touchette, and Shelley Rouser.  State Rep. John Kowalko is in the house!

Yvonne Johnson is going over the basics on what assessments are and what high-stakes testing is.  For students this COULD mean promotion or retention.  Y. Johnson said one parent at the Newcastle County meeting said a parent said a school stopped a student from getting into an Advanced Placement class based on the student’s DCAS scores.  Yvonne said she feels this is a misuse of the purpose of high-stakes testing.  For educators this can affect their performance ratings.

Smarter Balanced is being used to align with Common Core.  You have to have a test to measure what it was designed for.  Student accountability will be determined by the local school district.  There are no consequences from the state DOE for student accountability.

Proponents of state assessments feel it motivates students to work harder, allows for teacher accountability, identifies areas of needed instruction.  Opponents feel it is not a reliable method of evaluating student growth or judging teachers.  The test is too long and takes up valuable class time.

Now were getting the whole “college and career readiness” statement which will assuredly help a child in 3rd grade.

Getting the DE DOE statement on conditions for opt out: medical or psychological issues.  The Delaware PTA will be voting at their next meeting on March 24th to officially state DE PTA supports parent opt out.

We are getting ready for questions after a statement from Brian Touchette, DE DOE Director of Assessment.  First question: What is the DOE’s stance on children being educated who have been opted out.  “A student shouldn’t be sitting and staring at a computer screen,” said Touchette.  But it is up to the districts to determine that.

2nd question: How can the fidelity of accommodations be assured for students in small-group testing?  Touchette said teachers are given guidance for how this should be implemented.  The teachers should know by now how to administer the test. A father asked point blank “Will the test follow my son’s IEP”, Touchette went to give an answer, but the father said “Yes or no?”.  Touchette went on about adaptations to the test.

A question was asked about the definition of individuals in Title 14, in regards to the assessment.  Touchette said the laws were written for schools, not parents.  Donna Johnson, director of the State Board of Education said there is nothing written in the assessment language in Federal or Delaware code about parent rights with opting out.  “Those are curricular decisions made by parents”.  There are state and federal requirements with testing for the schools who are obligated to give the test for children.  “It’s not directed at parents.”  Shelley Rouser said that is designed to make sure teachers don’t give lower performing students an out to keep the scores up.  Johnson (Donna) said the only way to measure schools is by having common assessments.  It is to help improve the education and reward the schools who are doing good and give the resources to those who need help.

DE State Rep. John Kowalko clarified parents have a Constitutional right to opt their parents out.  “If you think you can assess a student from Long Island with a student from Mississippi it is a Nirvana to try to do that.”

Someone asked about the Missouri local court ruling that the Smarter Balanced Asssessment Consortium is an illegal entity.  Okay, I asked that.  Donna Johnson said she has checked with legal counsel and is being told the state consortium was not directed at a Federal level.

Touchette responded to a question that the amount of testing has been reduced.  The AP teacher said students were pulled out of the class last year to do field tests.  Touchette said they were going to be making plans for that.  The teacher is stating it is very expensive and difficult for students in 11th grade with AP classes.  She is asking about make-up zones for when a student is opted out.  Kowalko is clarifying said House Bill 50 would allow for this matter to be looked at.

Yvonne Johnson said some of the letter responses parents got back from the school districts when they opted their child out were very threatening.  She is reading a statement from a superintendent who came out with a statement today (wonder who that is).  Yvonne said this is very threatening to parents.  She brought up the Appo letter and she sent it to the DOE to review. “Parents are confused and it is difficult .”

A parent explained how this test gives no immediate results and the student will go to a new teacher with no ability to learn from the test.  Shelley Rouser explained regular classroom tests allow students to learn from tests and this assessment shouldn’t be confused with the purpose of what teachers are supposed to be doing.

Kowalko said when they passed House Bill 334, the Smarter Balanced bill, they got rid of MAP testing which gave teachers direction for students through the year.  Teachers will still have those kinds of assessments.  The purpose of assessments is not to measure an artificial goal, but the needs of the teacher to meet the needs of the children.  The only thing accomplished by SBA is that No Child Left Behind is continued.  He said it’s about the individuals and public education is not about forcing kids to reach a level to aspire to.  It is about a bogus ideal and it is not right and it is not fair.

Parent Nelia Dolan said her children are tested numerous times a year through interim SBA assessments and she is very troubled by this.  Donna Johnson said there is a decrease in testing time through state mandated assessments.  A teacher and parent said there are ads on Craigslist for test scorers for $11 an hour and only 48 college credits.  Touchette said the DOE is using a company called AIR for test scorers and the training will be very extensive.

The same teacher said as a teacher she doesn’t need to review standardized assessments to gage how her students are doing, she already knows based on summative and formative assessments within her own classroom.  She also explained how cultural bias can play a role in the test.  Touchette said items go through multiple periods of review to determine if these types of biases show up on the tests.  There is a bias committee to address these types of issues.  Then field tests occur to judge the test from there.  If there are items that show up like this they are tossed from the test.

A reporter from the Dover Post asked if the Smarter Balanced Assessment will be used instead of the SAT for college entrance.  Donna said this is a topic of discussion but not right away.  I’m sure someone will comment on this latest revelation.

A parent from Sussex Academy said if teachers didn’t pass DCAS they didn’t go on to the next grade.  Another parent said Providence Creek Academy was the same way.  An art teacher said this has completely changed the way she is able to teach.  “My physical class has been completely taken over and I spend 70% of my time having students write about art and the creation time is slim to none.”

Donna Johnson wanted to hear from the audience what their exact problems were with the actual test.  One parent commented about a math sample he saw for scoring purposes where a student got the right answer but didn’t explain it right and didn’t get the full score.  But another got the wrong answer and explained it “right” and got a higher score.  Okay, I was that parent!  I asked Donna Johnson how this makes kids college ready.  I advised her if she went to her boss with wrong numbers he wouldn’t say “Oh, but you explained it right.”  He would say “Go back and do it again.”

Parents complained about the psychological effects of the test, such as kids vomiting before school, anxiety attacks, and the need to perform.  Parents said the language and wording can have many interpretations and meanings behind them which makes it VERY confusing.  I advised it will be especially hard for special needs students.

I did clarify with Donna Johnson that the state of Delaware can not hold a teacher or state employee accountable for opting their child out of the test.  That would be a district decision since they hire the teachers.  So I clarified, if I was a teacher at Capital, at Dover High School, and I opted my kid out, the state would do nothing.  She said yes.  The local district would make that decision.  But she seriously doubted any district would enforce that decision.

I think this meeting was less heated than the Newcastle County one.  Touchette did leave early due to weather conditions and he had to drive back to Wilmington.  Donna Johnson handled the crowd pretty well.  I did tell her afterwards that the next big issue is the free lunch program.  I told her the food sucks and she needs to fix that.  I’m sure I missed some stuff here, so feel free to comment if you were there.

 

 

DE PTA Kent and Newcastle County Parent Opt Out Town Halls Scheduled! Register Now!!!

The following is taken from the Delaware PTA website:

Opt Out Town Halls

 Good evening,

As you are aware, Delaware PTA has not taken a position on the parent opt out. We realize that families and community members have very valid concerns regarding the efficacy of the assessment, impact to students and teachers and overall implementation process. As a result, we are dedicated to facilitating open and honest conversations among stakeholders to gain a better understanding of the expected impact and outcome of the assessment, the need for state assessments and parent options within this context.

These sessions will be moderated in an attempt to create an environment that is conducive to an open flow of communication and that will allow sufficient time for Q&A from attendees.

We will post communications and links to resources that the Delaware Department of Education and State Board of Education have provided to us, as well as additional resources from National PTA.

Although attendees will have the option to ask questions during the town hall, you will also have the opportunity to submit questions ahead of time when you register. Both sessions are open to the public, but we do ask that you register for the session so we can prepare accordingly.

The goal of the upcoming town halls is to provide a venue for parents, teachers and community members to come together and voice their concerns/questions and receive clear and accurate responses otherwise not available and/or clear in current printed or online communications from DPTA, DDOE or any other organization.

You may register for one of the following two sessions

February 19th

5:30pm -7:30pm

Delaware PTA State office

925 Bear Corbitt Rd

Bear, DE

 

March 3rd

5:30pm – 7:30pm

Dover Public Library

35 East Lockerman St.

Dover, DE

Delaware PTA Sponsors Parent Opt Out Town Hall Meeting

The Delaware Parent Teacher Association is sponsoring a parent opt out town hall meeting to discuss what opt out means for students and standardized tests, more specifically, the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  As the test will begin in March, the opt out drums are beating louder and louder.

The Newcastle County meeting will be open to parents on 2/19/15, at the Eden Hill Support Center in the Cafetorium.  A time has not been announced for this event at this point in time.  Kent County was scheduled to have a meeting on 2/3/15 at the Kent County Library, but it was canceled.  I reached out to Delaware PTA President Dr. Terri Hodges to inquire why it was canceled and if it would be rescheduled.  She explained the room at the library only holds 25 people and they would most likely need a bigger room.  Maybe the Kent County Municipal Building?  Or maybe one of the schools would be willing to offer a library for the meeting.  The DOE would love that! Not!

I like the fact the Delaware PTA is having these meetings.  At their annual conference in November, the DOE was there and used the same excuses they had in their letters to districts to give to parents if they make that decision.  As I have reported before, their letters are based on a misunderstanding of actual Delaware code and regulations.