Guest Post: Shelley Suchyj On School Choice In Delaware

Shelley Suchyj is an educator from the Christina School District.  She was also the Exceptional Delaware Hero Of The Year for 2016 for speaking out about the mold issues in her district.  As the School Choice window in Delaware will end tomorrow, Suchyj put up a Facebook post with some information that was left out of a recent Delaware Today article by Larry Nagengast.

This is a must read for every politician and parent in Delaware so please share. As the Talented and Gifted Educator for the Christina School District city schools; I have spent over 30 hours already this week, going to student’s houses and helping their parents fill out Choice forms on my personal computer. This is on top of the hours spent with a “carload of parents and students” that I attended open house with at the new Christina Honors Academy two weeks ago. There is a lot that this article doesn’t include, that most don’t even understand. Like the fact that the choice website is only in English and most city parents don’t realize that you only have from November- January of the previous year to apply for Choice in the following year. The biggest hurtle is a perception of what a “good school” is.

I have been an educator for over 23 years, 16 years as an 8th grade teacher helping parents navigate the high school choice decision. Having taught most of my years as an inner city teacher. I have had siblings in the first graduating classes of both Wilmington Charter and Newark Charter when they both opened. I have sons that have attended public, catholic, charter, magnet and choice schools in the state of Delaware since choice began in 1997 and currently. I have to say the biggest issue for everyone in the state of Delaware to understand that there are GREAT programs and things happening in every school.

My own mother thought I was crazy when I took my son out of the, believed to be best catholic school, and put him in a public school. But to this day Marbrook, and the friends, teachers and experiences he had there can not be matched. But that was for him. He learned to speak Spanish fluently not because he learned it in school, because he didn’t, it was because his best friends spoke Spanish when they arrived at school and he needed to be able to communicate when they played soccer at recess and hung out after school. He got to learn a new sport at Dickinson playing varsity lacrosse that he never would have been able to play at Sallies or Wilmington Charter because of the number of kids on the team.

My belief is that every school should have an engineering class, computer class, arts class, music classes, languages and personal finance class option for every child in grades 4-12. Lets figure out what kids are talented in and grow those talents. We have changed the location of where our children can go to school in Delaware through Choice and Charter. Shouldn’t we change what they are taught in school to be successful too? It isn’t 1950 any more.

With sincerest apologies to Suchyj, I promised her I would get this up when I saw it over the weekend, but due to weather and work constraints I was unable to do so.  Every parent interested in choicing their child to a different school should look at every possible option and not go solely by reputation.  Each child is different and has unique learning methods.

Farewell Avi

Avi Wolfman-Arent announced on Facebook yesterday he is moving on from Delaware to greener pastures.  Avi was the education reporter for WHYY/Newsworks.  He will be joining the Philadelphia branch.  I wish him the best of luck!

This is the second education reporter Delaware has lost this year.  Matthew Albright with the News Journal is still in Delaware, but he is covering Legislative Hall.  Avi gave education a very different perspective in Delaware.  I remember the first time I came across him during the entire Family Foundations Academy debacle at the end of 2014.  We had our disagreements along the way but I always respected the Wolfman!  Some of his articles were nothing I expected but delivered in their thoroughness and research.

We still have the excellent Larry Nagengast and James Dawson here in Delaware, and Albright’s former title at the News Journal was replaced by Brittany Horn.  Like Delaware education, people come and go, but it is always interesting to say the least.

Delaware General Assembly May Produce Bill To Ban Charter Enrollment Preferences

“I don’t know how much longer we can talk about the high-performing charter sector if there’s an asterisk next to some of them” because of the preferences, she (Jennifer Nagourney) says.

Jaques says the House Education Committee may consider legislation this spring to remove preferences from the admissions process.”

According to this article from Larry Nagengast on WDDE, the 148th General Assembly may see a bill introduced to get rid of charter school enrollment preferences in Delaware.  Discussion in the article was around the whole charter school environment in Delaware, but this shocker towards the end caused my jaw to drop.

I think it’s great that Jennifer Nagourney with the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education is taking a hard look at the reality of charters in Delaware, specifically Wilmington.  With a pending ACLU complaint being looked at by the US DOE’s Office of Civil Rights, as well as clarification from a leading national charter school organization, the writing is on the wall.

At the last meeting of the Enrollment Preference Task Force, which stemmed out of House Bill 90, Alex Medler with the National Association of Charter School Authorizers told the task force any specific interest enrollment preference should only be used if it would allow needed students into the school, i.e. low-income, minority, special needs, etc.

Finally, Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques says something that makes sense!  One thing is for sure, this would change the conversation about choice in Delaware.

To read the full article, please go here:

http://www.wdde.org/74292-charter-schools-1

Delaware Schools, Are You Ready To Be Graded A, B, C, D, or F?

In the move we all saw coming, the Delaware Department of Education is moving ahead with their school grade rating system upon approval of the State Board of Education at their March meeting.  A new article released today by WDDE reporter Larry Nagengast went over the specifics of the upcoming School Accountability System.

This is based on the infamous online survey the DOE conducted last Fall that generated 6500 responses.

Asked about what grading system to use, 46 percent favored letter grades; 32.8 percent favored performance ratings like “distinguished,” “meets expectations” or “on probation”; 13 percent preferred the traffic light and rest preferred symbols.

Many people who looked at the survey felt it was obvious which choices would be picked by respondents and argued the DOE did this on purpose to get the results they already wanted.  Many felt it was just another whitewash of the Delaware public by a state department that has been shrouded in controversy for over a year.

Frederika Jenner, president of the Delaware State Education Association, wasn’t impressed with any of the options. She says she would have preferred “none of the above,” and says many people she spoke with share her opinion.

Even DOE employee Penny Schwinn gave comment for the article:

Schwinn says that at least half of the weighting for Part A will be assigned to measurements of student proficiency and growth – how well they are meeting benchmarks set in the Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS) tests, which were phased out last year, and in the new Smarter Balanced assessments, which are being used for the first time this school year. Graduation rates, career readiness, how well the school is closing the achievement gap between its regular population and high-need students, and some school climate data will also be factored into the scoring.

It is obvious from this article these “grades” will be utilized to punish schools that “don’t make the grade” so to speak:

Awards or sanctions based on ratings could take effect in the 2016-17 school year, Schwinn says. The awards could be financial or they could be “less paperwork” required by the state, she says. Schools falling into the bottom grouping could be subject to transformation remedies, like those used for “partnership zone” schools under the recent Race to the Top federal grant and currently being implemented for six “priority schools” in the Red Clay and Christina districts.

I would love to see what they do with this system when parents start opting their child out of the state assessments en masse.  What are you going to do then Mrs. Schwinn?  It also doesn’t look like many members of the Delaware General Assembly are to enamored with the ESEA Flexibility Waivers either…

The full WDDE article can be read here: http://www.wdde.org/72897-report-card-grading-delaware-public-schools-coming