Ashley Sabo’s Must Read Public Comment To Red Clay’s Board About Kindergarten

Ashley Sabo addressed the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education tonight about a topic that is rising with grave concern to parents and educators all over the country.  Rigor and kindergarten are like oil and water.  They don’t belong together at all.  She should run for public office!

In the essay, “All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten” the author writes about how all the things we need to know for living life are learned in kindergarten, not in graduate level classes or adulthood, but in that primary year of our schooling. The things he says we learn are: share everything, play fair, don’t hit, put things back where you found them, clean up your mess, say sorry when you hurt someone, live a balanced life – learn some, think some, draw and paint, sing and dance, and play and work every day.  And wonder, never lose your sense of wonder.

As a parent of a kindergartner I have watched the joy of learning fade from her – a child who once happily grabbed her backpack and headed to the car for school now is reluctant to go and would prefer a nap on the couch despite it being 8:15 in the morning. The joy of learning is fading for the sake of rit and rigor and supposed success, when we’re really losing the success of learned social skills and dynamic imaginative play. 

Our students are no longer taught to live a balanced life with both play and work. Rather they are pushed to the limit each day with more testing and more worksheets and more rigorous academia.  Despite studies that show children who are allowed to play have higher language skills, both receptive and expressive, and better problem solving skills, school leadership continues to add on to the curriculum requirements. 

In addition to language and problem solving skills, learning through play helps children increase cognitive development, increase self-confidence, reduce anxiety, learn basic social development skills such as cooperation, sharing, and conflict resolution – all skills and traits that are necessary and critical to navigating adulthood.

I would wager a guess that a number of you, if not the majority of you, had the old-fashion type of kindergarten that allowed for naps, extra recess, more imaginative play and less seat work – and look at you all, I think you turned out pretty well, after all you are overseeing the education of thousands of children.

I implore you, the school board and district leaders, to reconsider the kindergarten curriculum and the proposed increase of scope and sequence being piloted this year. Our kids deserve to be kids and learn the best way kids do – through play!

Thank you

No, thank you Ashley Sabo for having the heart and the guts to stand before a school board and telling them basic truths.  I joked years ago that Governor Markell would set up a Smarter Balanced In Utero Assessment.  With all the Kindergarten and pre-school push lately, I may not be too far off!  But seriously, Ashley Sabo should run for office.  We need more common sense in Legislative Hall.  And any public comment that quotes Robert Fulghum is great!

Why I Want Your Vote For The Capital School Board

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For those who haven’t heard, I am jumping into the fire!  Anyone reading this blog knows my stances on education.  Is it enough though?  We need change and we need it now.

These are the reasons I am running.  I will tackle each reason below.

  1. Far too many Dover residents don’t want to send their child to Capital School District.
  2. Every student needs to be treated as an individual and not a test score.
  3. Our middle schools need a lot of help.
  4. We need more fiscal transparency and accountability.
  5. Low-Income Students.
  6. The Every Student Succeeds Act.
  7. Student Data.
  8. More participation from parents in the district.
  9. Special Education.
  10. More participation in state legislative matters.
  11. Charter schools within our district.
  12. Kindergarten.
  13. Support for our teachers.
  14. Ensuring opt out of standardized testing is honored as a parental right.
  15. More focus on the arts.
  16. Perception of the district.
  17. Perception of Dover as a result of the district.
  18. Oversight of the Delaware Department of Education and the United States Department of Education.
  19. Leadership

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“Far too many Dover residents don’t want to send their child to Capital School District” Continue reading

Newark Charter School Denies Lottery To 6 Year Old Girl With Rare Disability

The Newark Charter School admission policy has hit a new low. They are not allowing a child with developmental disabilities apply to the school for Kindergarten because she will be six years old when she enters Kindergarten next August.  Newark Charter School will have their lottery this coming Monday, February 8th at 6pm.

The parents’ daughter has an extremely rare disability called radioulnar synostosis that impacts her fine motor skills and limits the use of her hands and arms. According to Boston Children’s Hospital, this disability is defined as: Congenital radioulnar synostosis is a rare congenital difference in which there’s an abnormal bony or soft tissue connection between the two bones of the forearm—the radius and the ulna.  This disability is so rare, only 400 cases have been reported worldwide.

Her parents made a choice, at the recommendation of her pre-school, to keep her there another year.  According to the mom and dad, their daughter needs extra time to develop her fine motor skills and co-ordination based on her disability.  Apparently, this does not matter to the Admissions Office at Newark Charter School.

The father was told by the Admissions Office that Newark Charter School could not accept the application and enter his daughter into the lottery based on her age. The parents attended a board meeting at the school and a board member suggested to the parents to apply their daughter for first grade, and upon acceptance, they would assess her and move her down to Kindergarten, if needed.  The parents did not find this to be a viable option since their daughter was never in Kindergarten in the first place.  This was not an acceptable option for the father, so he contacted the Delaware Department of Education.

The father spoke with the Charter School Office with concerns about the legality of Newark Charter School’s actions. He talked with Jennifer Nagourney, the Executive Director of the Charter School Office.  She advised him what the school was doing was completely legal.

After reaching out to a State Representative about the situation, the State Rep. asked the father for permission to reach out to some folks on this issue in an attempt to help. I was one of those people, and I spoke with the parents earlier this evening.  The parents are very concerned about this matter and feel other parents have a right to know what the school is doing.

The father claims the Admissions Office referenced a change in their admission policy that went into effect on September 15th, 2015.  I went to the school’s board minutes and found the following changes to their admissions policy:

NCS91515BoardMinutes

The wording on this board resolution is very vague and unclear. It doesn’t even mention a scenario where a child could be older than five and what their policy is on this.  Furthermore, the board voted on this change to their policy without the action item on their agenda.  Parents who may have been aware of this planned action could have attended the meeting and given public comment, or reached out to the school to address it with the Admissions Office or their Head of School, Greg Meece.  The fact they would deny parents who applied for Kindergarten in the 2015-2016 school year is a mystery to me, but there are multiple reasons why a parent could choose not to send their child to Kindergarten and they have a right to do so.  Many families of a child with a disability have made this choice.  Charter school boards in Delaware are required to post an Agenda of their board meetings seven days prior to their meeting, which Newark Charter School certainly did in this case.  However, it did not post any action items to be voted on by the Board of Directors, just Admissions Policy as part of “business” without any clear details surrounding it.

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The board had the same item on their agenda for their August meeting and did discuss admission procedures in the August meeting. They didn’t take a vote on it thought, so the term “business” on their agenda is very misleading and doesn’t indicate what is being discussed or having action taken.  While Delaware’s open meeting law does not give an indication either way about discussion and action items, traditional school districts tend to have these clearly listed on their agendas.  Clarification in the law is absolutely needed so all public schools have the same level of transparency in regards to board meetings.

On Newark Charter School’s website, under Admissions, their general guidelines for applications do not reference the specific age of a Kindergartner:

NCSAdmissionsPolicy

I went to their actual Admissions Policy to see what it says on the subject:

Once again, there is nothing about a child being six years old at the time Kindergarten begins. The matter is not even addressed.  What it does say is this:

  1. All Kindergarten applicants must turn five years of age in the period from September 1, 2015 to August 31, 2016 to apply for KN in the 2016-2017 lottery. Students applying for Kindergarten do not necessarily have to be currently enrolled in a pre-K program. A birth certificate showing that the child will turn five-years old on or after September 1, 2015 and no later than August 31, 2016 will be required during the registration process in order for the student to be officially accepted.
  2. All other applicants to Newark Charter School must apply to the next consecutive grade level that they would matriculate to if they were to remain in their current school (For example, a current 1st grade student must apply to 2nd grade).

Title 14 in Delaware State Code is very clear about what a charter school can or cannot do in the application process:

  • 506 Restrictions.
  1. A charter school shall not:

(3) Restrict student admissions except:

  • By age and grade;

(4) Discriminate against any student in the admissions process because of race, creed, color, sex (except in the case of a same gender school), handicap, or national origin, or because the student’s school district of residence has a per student local expenditure lower than another student seeking admission

The wording concerning “by age and grade” is vague. It doesn’t give an actual clarification for it.  But it should be assumed it means charter schools will only accept applications for the grades that they have.  There are many charter schools that have students in attendance in certain grades where they are much older than their peers based on individual circumstances.

In the situation with this young girl, she could not have matriculated from Kindergarten since she is not currently enrolled in Kindergarten. So the board member’s suggestion was preposterous.   I asked the father if the application asked specifically about any disabilities and he did not believe it did.  I was able to obtain a copy of the school’s application which verified they did not ask about any type of disability for an applicant.

NCSApplication

In my opinion, because of the Board’s lack of transparency concerning these admissions changes back in September of 2015, as well as very unclear wording for any parent applying to the school, this child should be included in Newark Charter School’s lottery. If you agree, please email Greg Meece at Newark Charter School with the subject line: “Let her in the lottery” and please attach a copy of this article.  You can email Greg Meece at the following email address: gmeece@ncs.k12.de.us

Their lottery is Monday night at 6:00pm. If there are any other parents within Newark Charter School’s five mile radius, from the flagpole in front of their high school, who have also had their child’s application rejected based on this very misleading admissions policy, please contact me at kevino3670@yahoo.com or leave a comment on this article.

In the meantime, the daughter’s parents are praying something changes between now and 6pm on Monday.

Exceptional Winterfest Weekend: No Holds Barred Education Forum!!!!

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Since the snowmageddon is upon us, I thought this might be a good time to hold the very first Exceptional Winterfest Weekend.  This event will be going on ALL weekend long during the Blizzard of 2016.  Below are the links to discuss education issues.  I want ALL sides of the issues to feel welcome and this will be no holds barred.  I encourage everyone to log in as their real name.  I would avoid personal attacks for all.  I would comment on this thread now to avoid your account going into moderation.  If my power goes out, I won’t be able to moderate comments and release them if you are a first-time user.  I would ask that if you are an elected official to send comments through your state email address to avoid any potential impersonations of elected officials.

I would love to see Governor Markell, Paul Herdman, Earl Jaques, David Sokola, Kendall Massett, Donna Johnson, Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, Chris Ruszkwoski, and Dr. Steven Godowsky come on over and comment.  If any of you have the means to contact them, please invite them to this one of a kind chance to really get to the heart of the issues.

My hope is that by the end of this weekend, if this experiment doesn’t fail miserably, that maybe we can reach consensus on some of these issues in Delaware education.  We are not going to agree on everything, but maybe we can understand the different sides and have more respect for each other’s opinions when all is said and done.  There is no better time than a blizzard to do this, as most of us will be in our homes with our loved ones.

These are the topics, all of which will be under the title of this blog:

Bullying

Charter Schools

Common Core

Corporate Education Reform

Delaware DOE/State Board of Education

Delaware Teachers

Early Childhood Education/Kindergarten

Legislation in Education/General Assembly

Low-Income/Poverty Needs

Parents In Education

Personalized Learning

School Funding

Smarter Balanced Assessment/Opt-Out

Special Education

Traditional School Districts

Wilmington Education

All comments are now turned on.  I apologize.  I didn’t realize these “pages” on my blog had to be individually turned on.  Thank you for your patience!

 

 

Prophets & Profits: The Year In Delaware Education

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2015 was a transition year for education in Delaware.  It was a year of prophets and profits.  Many were wondering what was going to happen next while others were making money.

Common Core was around for a few years, but the test that most were dreading was finally here.  Parents opted their kids out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment causing Delaware to miss some of the 95% participation rates for different sub-groups.  For the remaining students taking the test, the results were a battle cry across the state.  Students did not fare better on the test, in fact they did worse than the DCAS.  Most people involved in education predicted this, including the Delaware Department of Education.  While the Governor, a couple of legislators, and the DOE fought the opt-out movement, the rest of the state rallied behind it and there was no greater symbol for it than House Bill 50.  With some touch and go moments, and huge support from the Delaware PTA, the legislation passed the Delaware House and Senate twice with an overwhelming majority in both the House and Senate.  As we all know, Governor Markell went and vetoed the bill in July.  This didn’t stop the DOE and State Board of Education from putting more knives in parents and schools backs with their twisted and diabolical opt-out penalties in the school report card debacle.  The teachers escaped the wrath of the Smarter Balanced results as they received another year off from the scores counting towards their teacher evaluations.

To date, the DOE gave American Institutes for Research $38 million dollars between the Smarter Balanced Assessment and DCAS.  Many other companies profited immensely from the DOE’s efforts to “fix” our schools.  But the DOE itself lost half of Governor Markell’s proposed $7.5 million increase for the Department.  DOE wanted to keep Race To The Top going with their own employees, but didn’t want to maybe, perhaps, send those funds to the classrooms where they are desperately needed.  In the end though, the DOE kept most of the employees hired through Race To The Top, even though they are slowly but surely leaving the DOE.  Leadership at the DOE changed with a new Secretary of Education, Dr. Steven Godowsky.  The former Secretary, Mark Murphy, “resigned” after votes of no confidence from the two biggest districts’ unions, the state teachers union, the state school administrator group and funding for Red Clay priority schools got seriously jacked up.  But he “resigned”…

Speaking of priority schools, Christina got to keep theirs, but lost two referendums and a middle school principal named Dr. Dan Shelton who became the Superintendent of the Capital School District after Dr. Michael Thomas retired.  Christina’s superintendent, Dr. Freeman Williams, went out on leave and shortly after announced his retirement causing the board to hire an Acting Superintendent, former Red Clay Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski.  But due to school choice, Christina continued to bleed students who went to charter schools in Wilmington and the surrounding areas causing many to fear for their financial viability by the start of their next school year next fall.

The entire Wilmington education mess brought about a moratorium on new charter schools in Wilmington for a few years or until the DOE could come up with a “strategic plan” to figure it all out.  Meanwhile, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission was born out of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee which recommended all Wilmington schools not already in Red Clay be moved to that district.  Brandywine and Colonial nudged themselves out of the deal, leaving Christina as the sole giver-upper of their Wilmington schools.  This is, of course, contingent on votes by the State Board of Education and the Delaware General Assembly next year.  The biggest issues with the redistricting effort are funding and lack of faith in Red Clay being able to take on all these schools when they can’t handle problems with inclusion and bullying in some of their own schools.  The devil is in the details, and the funding detail hasn’t been solved.  Ideas such as raising property assessments did not win WEIC a lot of public support.  Nor did the near shut-out of representation from Kent or Sussex County.  While it is a Wilmington commission, the fact that their ideas would support the whole state and they named their website Solutions for Delaware Schools didn’t help the matter.

A couple of charter school leaders in Delaware made immense profits off taxpayer money…until they got caught!  Both of these incidents put Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover on formal review with the DOE and very nasty investigations by the State Auditor’s office.  Both survived, mainly because the former heads of schools were given the boot.  In the case of FFA, East Side Charter School essentially took them over who was still basking in the glow of their miraculous “growth” increases on DCAS.  A point which their leader, Lamont Browne, bragged about incessantly at the Imagine Delaware Education Forum in March.  Not able to survive a formal review was Delaware Met, which was given the hangman’s noose a couple of weeks ago by the State Board of Education.  The Charter School of Wilmington had an interesting Spring with one student’s discipline issue taking up quite a bit of space on here.  Low enrollment woes put new charters Freire and Delaware Design Lab High School on formal review, but they were able to get their numbers up just in the nick of time.  Freire’s Head of School “resigned” after violating their own zero tolerance policy against local protesters.  As the authorizer of three charters in their district, Red Clay dumped Delaware College Prep but renewed the charter for Delaware Military Academy.  The DOE pulled a hat trick and renewed three charters: Campus Community, MOT, and Providence Creek Academy.

Sussex Academy got a pool.  Many charters had their own teacher evaluation systems approved by the Secretary of Education.  Odyssey and Delaware Military Academy basically asked the state for more money to expand but they did this through articles in the News Journal which caused State Rep. John Kowalko to tell them it shouldn’t happen.  Kowalko, along with many other legislators, opposed the Fiscal Year 2016 budget because of slush funds given to charter schools through transportation funds and performance funds.  But what really drew their ire was settlement funds from the foreclosure crisis that were used to plug holes in the budget.

The entire General Assembly dealt with education bills left and right.  The most controversial were the opt-out bill and the charter school audit bill.  Other education legislation dealing with funding for special education and low-income students, cursive, and recording of all board meetings in Delaware were left hanging until the legislators come back in a couple of weeks.

None of these bills stopped the lobbyists from swarming Legislative Hall like a herd of buffalo.  The Rodel Foundation, Delaware Charter Schools Network and the Delaware Business Roundtable gave their lobbyist say on most education bills.  Rodel beefed up their personalized learning game with Student Success 2o25 from their Vision Coalition.  Their CEO, Paul Herdman, had a pretty good year.  I can think of 343,000 reasons why.  All opposed House Bill 50, which drew more negative attention to their organizations.  Especially from the bloggers.

Kilroy’s Delaware and Transparent Christina cut back on their output.  Kavips brilliantly beat the same drums he/she usually does.  I posted a few articles.  New blogs entered the Delaware landscape with fixdeldoe, Creative Delaware, and State Rep. Kim Williams’ Delaware First State joining the fray.  The very excellent Who Is Minding The Children came and went.  Newcomer Avi Wolfman-Arent with WHYY/Newsworks gave Matthew Albright over at the News Journal some much-needed competition.

A lot of what happened on the national level funneled down to Delaware.  The reauthorization of the Elementary/Secondary Education Act created the Every Student Succeeds Act with many scratching their heads asking themselves what the hell it all means.  But our DOE was able to line up all their initiatives with what went down in the final legislation, even though they were planning it years in advance.  I would love to know how they managed to pull that rabbit out of their hat!  Actually, for the education conspiracy theory mongers out there (myself included), we all know how that went down.  That’s right, Congress didn’t write the act, the corporate education reformers did.  The unions all supported it, but it will come back to bite them in the ass.

Delaware escaped the special education “you suck” rating from the feds it received in 3 of the last 4 years, even though they really did.  As standards-based IEPs rolled out across the districts and charters, students with disabilities were put in the toughest “growth” goals of any sub-group in the state with an expectation they would go from 19% proficiency to 59% over the next six years of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Dr. Gray, the State Board of Education President, seems to think personalized learning will get them there.

Parents of Kindergarten students wondered why kids weren’t getting recess and some were getting off the bus with homework.  The days of students getting a break were gone in favor of rigor and grit.  While the DOE and US DOE claimed each student is an individual, their practices and policies were determined to throw them all together in their proficiency pie.

2015 did see a great deal of bi-partisanship with the opt-out movement in House Bill 50.  How the votes go down with the veto override next year will tell the tale on that one.  Many stories will either continue or come to an end in the General Assembly based on that vote as the 2016 elections will determine the fates of all the House Representatives and over half of the Senate.  Many are praying State Rep. Earl Jaques bows out and doesn’t run, along with Senator David Sokola.  This could provide much better leaders for the education committees in the House and Senate.

That covers most of the big moments in 2015.  2016 could be quieter or even messier.  All I know is 2015 was one for the record books!

 

Uncommon School Video Really Makes Me Think Of The Third Reich

I hate to go there, but if you watch the videos from Nazi Germany with kids being taught how to behave and what to do and say and then watch this video, some of the parallels are uncanny.  I’ve never been a big fan of treating kids like they are in some behavior school or a Miss Manners type of situation.  The kids in this video are in Kindergarten.  They are 5 years old.  What is frightening is this video doesn’t show what happens if they are not in compliance.  I’m sure it happens, and I hate to see that video.  My apologies for the very dark comparison, but it truly was the first thing I thought of upon watching this.

This video went up in May, and I’m sure it has been replayed quite a bit, but for those just seeing this the first time, is this truly what you want for our children?  There is choice, and then there is this: