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

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 Lies Greg Meece Says About Newark Charter School

Greg Meece runs Newark Charter School.  For 18 years, Newark Charter School is rated not only one of the top charter schools in Delaware but one of the top schools.  There is a multitude of reasons for this but it boils down to diversity.  At their public hearing for their charter renewal process, Meece made a comment that is sure to rile up the diversity crowd all over again.  Meece openly lied about his own school. Continue reading

Field Trip Funding Bill Would Give Relief To Low-Income Schools

Delaware State Representative Sean Matthews submitted House Bill #282 for pre-filing yesterday which would give $25 to each student for field trips in designated low-income schools across the state.

In order to support enrichment activities such as field trips for students at high-poverty schools, this bill would require the State to provide $25 per student to high poverty schools for the purpose of educational and enrichment field trips.
The bill is co-sponsored by State Senator Harris McDowell with additional sponsorship provided by Senators Brian Bushweller and David Sokola and State Reps. Paul Baumbach, Stephanie Bolden, Helene Keeley, and Trey Paradee.
Matthews sent a note to his colleagues in the General Assembly in asking for sponsorship:

Much of what makes a student successful in school is the background knowledge and outside experiences that a student gets from going on trips. Students that go on trips to museums, historical sites and parks are able to acquire knowledge and life experiences that help them do better in school. Field trips are predominately paid for by parents, so students from families of more financial means are typically able to go on more and better field trips. 

This bill will allow schools with a 50% or greater low-income student population to receive financial support to plan and run educational field trips. The identified schools (see list below…schools are in all 3 counties) would get $25/student and could use that money to plan field trip/s. The money could be combined with private funding (parents, PTA, grants, etc.) in any manner the school sees fit to maximize its use.  Please note that most schools already have policies and procedures to ensure that field trips are educational in nature. 

We’ve spent years trying to “fix” struggling schools with programs and money solely within the four walls of a school. Let’s try something new and get students from schools with large low-income populations out of the building on high quality field trips. I believe we will see real and lasting results. Note: The approximate cost to fund this bill Statewide based on the most recent data on low-income students, is $500,000.

Since this bill comes with a fiscal note, I would expect some resistance to it, especially coming from the Republican side.  As I see no sponsorship from either the Senate or House Republicans, it is hard to tell what will happen with this.  With that being said, I strongly support this bill.  It is a definitive and urgent need for high-need students.  And yes, low-income and poverty is very much a high need.  We have a large amount of students this would benefit which could give tangible and immediate results in their education.  Frankly, I’m disappointed no Republicans signed on as some of them represent districts where some of the below schools reside in.  I can think of a lot of wasteful spending in this state and this would NOT be one of them!

This is not limited to traditional school districts but also charter schools that qualify.  Please support this legislation!

The list of schools:

Elementary Schools: East Dover, South Dover, Booker T. Washington, Fairview, Towne Point, Lake Forest, North Laurel, Dunbar, Banneker, Mispillion, Blades, Frederick Douglas, Harlan, Highlands, Lewis Dual Language, Shortlidge, Baltz, Richardson Park, Mote, Warner, Brookside, Oberle, Bancroft, Elbert-Palmer, Pulaski, Stubbs, Eisenberg, Academy of Dover, East Side Charter, Thomas Edison Charter, Charter School of New Castle, Kuumba Academy, and Academia Antonia Alonso.

Middle Schools: Central Middle, Skyline, Stanton, Bayard, and McCullough

High Schools: Pyle Academy & Great Oaks

ILC Schools: Kent Elementary ILC & Kent County Alternative

Special Schools: First State School, Douglass School, & Carver Center

To read the full bill, please see below:

 

Enrollment Count Report for 2017-2018 & Demographic Information For Districts & Charters: The Rise, The Surge, & The Cherry-Picking!

Which districts and charters saw big jumps with student enrollment? Which went down?  What is the state of special education in Delaware?  What key demographic is rising at a fast rate which contributes significantly to the budget woes in our state?  Which charter school, based on their current enrollment, should no longer be considered financially viable and should be shut down?  What is the fastest-growing sub-groups in Delaware?  And which cherry-picking charters continue to not serve certain populations? Continue reading

Delaware ACLU Planning To Sue State Over Education Funding

In a shocking announcement, the Delaware American Civil Liberties Union wants to sue the State of Delaware over education funding.  But the announcement was not made by the ACLU but rather a Capital School District Board of Education member at their meeting last evening. Continue reading

A Review Of “The Deed: Fixing Education In The First State”: More Of The Same With No Solutions

A University of Delaware class called Documentary Production produced a video called “The Deed: Fixing Education In The First State”.  The cinematography of the video was good, but I feel it should have been renamed “Fixing Education In Wilmington” because that was pretty much what the video was about.

It gave a good history of segregation before 1954, but after that it focused solely on Wilmington.  But I found the stereotypes to be a bit too much.  The video primarily focuses on two Caucasian mothers.  One is in what appears to be a classroom, and the other is out in the suburbs in a very nice home.  When they do show African-Americans (aside from  Tony Allen), it is primarily urban Wilmington.  As if there are no African-Americans in the suburbs.

The TedX Wilmington videos shown in this are from Tony Allen, the Chair of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, and Dr. Paul Herdman, the CEO of the Rodel Foundation.  Other folks shown in the video are Dan Rich from the University of Delaware and one of the main WEIC players, Atnre Alleyne from DelawareCAN and TeenSHARP, and Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick.   There are cameos from Delaware Teacher of the Year Wendy Turner and the not-even sworn in yet Christina Board Member Meredith Griffin Jr.

Here is a newsflash.  There are 19 school districts in Delaware.  Up and down the state.  I love Wilmington, but if you are going to make a video called Fixing Education In The First State, you have to focus on the whole state.  This was one of the biggest mistakes WEIC made, focusing on Wilmington and expecting the rest of state to pick up the tab to fix Wilmington issues.  Yes, Wilmington is the biggest city, but many issues with poverty and low-income exist all over Delaware.

Like most discussions about “fixing” education in Delaware, we go through the history and the present situation.  Add some current events like the upcoming Colonial Referendum to make it current.  Show some shots from a WEIC meeting a few months ago when Governor John Carney and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting attended for some extra oomph and importance.

I recognize segregation in Wilmington schools and what school choice has done to Northern New Castle County as major problems in Delaware.  But there are other equally important issues, only one of which was briefly touched on in the video- education funding.  We also have special education with a rapidly growing population of students with disabilities, standardized testing, a growing population of English Language Learners, a General Assembly that generally makes some very bad choices for our schools, bullying in our schools,the continued fall-out from the Race To The Top accountability era, a State Auditor who doesn’t audit school districts every year even though that office has to by state law, referenda, a new Governor that is putting a ton of cuts towards school districts (but not charters), the Rodel Foundation’s stranglehold on decisions made in education, data mining of personal student information, and the upcoming and very real threats of competency-based education, personalized learning, an eventual replacement of real teachers with glorified moderators instead in a digital technology wonderland, and the upcoming Blockchain technology which will institute a full-blown “digital badge” scenario, tracking children from cradle to grave and predetermined careers and what their societal worth will be.  And yes, even Social-Emotional Learning is in the process of getting hijacked by the corporate education reformers (more on that soon).

Many of these things aren’t on the radar as much as they should be.  We are still bickering over how to “fix” education but we are stumbling with talking about what is right in education.  We are in a constant state of flux, in a state of constant improvement.  This obsessive need for improvement is actually what is fracturing education the most in Delaware.  The problem comes when we try to measure all these changes by one standardized test.

For an eleven minute video, it would be impossible to catch all the issues in Delaware education.  But showing very old videos of Tony Allen and Paul Herdman don’t do much for me.  Most Delawareans really don’t know who the two of them are.  Just because they have a TedX stage doesn’t give them more importance than a teacher giving a lecture to a class or a parent giving public comment at a school board meeting.  Those are actually the voices we need to hear more of in Delaware education, the everyday citizen.  Not a CEO of a “non-profit” making over $344,000 a year or a well-meaning Bank of America executive.  Don’t get me wrong, I think Tony Allen is a great guy, but it has become more than obvious that WEIC isn’t heading towards the destination it dreamed of and it is time to move on.  As for Dr. Paul “Rodel” Herdman, I have never been shy about my dislike of his “visions” for Delaware schools that have its roots in corporate profit.

We need to focus on what is going right in Delaware education and build from that.  It begins at the grass-roots level, in the classroom.  For that, the student and teacher voice are the most important.  And then the parent.  We go from one reform or initiative to the next, and the cycle goes on and on.

Taking A Deep Dive At Newark Charter School & Christina School District: 5 Mile Radius, Greater Newark Area, & District (Including Wilmington)

Ask, and ye shall receive!  Whenever I put up an article about Newark Charter School and what I view as their low sub-group population percentages compared to Christina School District, I am asked to do closer comparisons.  That is absolutely fair and something I should have done a long time ago.  So I plead guilty on that score.  But sometimes wanting to know that information to shut me up isn’t always the best idea.  Especially when the proof is in the pudding.  Continue reading

17 Who Will Make An Impact In 2017: State Rep Paul Baumbach

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A month ago, I participated in a forum on Delaware education funding at the monthly Progressive Democrats for Delaware meeting.  State Representative Paul Baumbach from the 23rd Rep District also discussed the issue.  Baumbach is very supportive of implementing a weighted education funding formula in Delaware.  Last Winter, Baumbach and then Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman presented a report on a weighted funding system to the Education Funding Improvement Commission.  That commission was unable to get a consensus on any particular funding apparatus and ended the 148th General Assembly with no final report.  The WEIC redistricting plan also called for implementation of a weighted funding system.

Education funding, with implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, will take center stage in 2017.  As more and more citizens realize the system we have now is not working for all students, attempts at fixing the problems will appear.  The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission and their redistricting plan for Wilmington Christina School District students is still bubbling under the surface.  Last night, Christina’s board voted 4-3 to settle on a lawsuit filed against them and the Delaware Dept. of Education by 15 charter schools that receive students from Christina.  The charters claim Christina was filing exclusions that were “improper” to the Delaware DOE and the DOE signed off on them.  While the settlement has not been made public, it will assuredly have an impact on local funding formulas going forward.

Baumbach’s plan is to have more money go to students with higher needs, such as low-income or poverty, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities.  Currently, students with disabilities do receive additional funding based on a unit-count system (with the exception of basic special education for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade).  This system determines how much staff each district or charter school receive based on their September 30th count of students.  With the funding system Baumbach is pushing for, the money would follow the student based on their needs.  Another question involving this funding system is if Talented and Gifted students would be considered high need as well.

This is not equality funding but equity funding.  Schools who have less sub-groups of students with higher needs would receive less money.  Final accountability regulations for ESSA will require each public school in America to show the amount of funding per student based on local, state, and federal funding.  The biggest problem with education funding in Delaware is property assessments.  No county in Delaware has increased their property assessments in decades resulting in severe imbalances to what the current assessed values would be.  As well, referenda held by school districts have had mixed results.  Adding to this mix is the potential of school vouchers coming to Delaware if President Donald Trump and his pick for U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, get their way.  Baumbach argued against a bill that would allow vouchers for special education students last Spring and stated it would be a violation of Delaware’s Constitution to send state funds to a religious private school.  Trump also announced he wants to incentivize new charter schools across America.  Capital costs for school buildings is also a major issue.  Delaware has many outdated schools that have serious structural issues with the recent Christina mold problem as a glaring example.

Baumbach will most likely bring forth legislation in 2017 to change how we fund our schools.  As well, there is increasing talk in Delaware about re-examining property assessments.  Some state officials have even suggested consolidating school districts to save money, possibly to a county school district system with New Castle County having two districts based on the population.

For my part, I can’t support ANY changes to our education funding system until we can get more assurances the money we are already spending is used with fidelity and honesty.  The recent audit investigation into Indian River showed very clearly that this district was not being honest.  We’ve had far too many Delaware charter school leaders and employees committing major fraud with funds that are not getting to students.  Our state auditor is supposed to audit each school district every year and publish the results.  This is not happening.  Charter school annual audits, usually, do not have the ability to catch financial fraud.  The State Auditor of Accounts Office, run by Tom Wagner, is massively understaffed.  Why in the world would we dump more  money into education when we can’t accurately keep track of the money already there?  This is the viewpoint of many conservatives in Delaware, but more on the left are also waking up to a reality that can no longer be ignored.

As the chief legislative advocate for a weighted funding system, Baumbach will have his hands full in the first six months of 2017.  If the Republicans manage to take control of the Delaware Senate after the special election for Bethany Hall-Long’s Senate seat, the voucher conversation will become very loud at Legislative Hall.  Tony Allen also warned that time is running out to fix education for Wilmington students and advocates may file a federal lawsuit against Delaware which could leave education funding and districting in the hands of a federal judge.  The icing on this education funding cake is the very flawed measurement of success for Delaware schools- the standardized test.  If we use them as a barometer of success or need, the system will continue to be a confusing mess with no end in sight.

No matter how you slice and dice money for education, no system will please everyone.  This has become painfully obvious.  We need to look at what is best for Delaware students and not those of corporations who seek to profit from education.  As corporate education reform is more embedded in our schools, more administrators are implementing the very bad policies from those reformers thus turning them into profiteers of education.  Yeah, Baumbach is going to have a big fight on his hands with any legislation involving this system!

To read the final report conducted by Hanover Research for the Delaware DOE on a weighted funding system, please read below:

2016 September 30th Report Shows 4% Increase In Special Education, 7.8% Increase For Charter Enrollment

The Delaware Department of Education came out with the 2016 September 30th Enrollment Report.  This document shows the head count for each school district and charter school in Delaware public schools.  As I predicted, special education students rose again this year.  To qualify for special education, a student must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP).  With the exception of vocational schools, both the traditional school districts and charter schools went up in enrollment statewide.  The growth for traditional school districts was anemic at best, with only a .32% increase from last year.  Overall state enrollment went up by .9%.  Once again, charter schools saw the greatest growth with a rise of 7.8% over last year.  No new charter schools opened this year, however many submitted modifications last year to increase enrollments and grades in one case.  Other charter schools began new grades this year based on their approved charters.  Some districts saw very steady growth but others saw continuing drops. Continue reading

Tony Allen: Lawsuit Coming If We Don’t Fix Wilmington Schools

Tony Allen issued a stern warning about Wilmington schools.  He said a lawsuit is coming soon if we don’t fix it.

Last Wednesday evening, the Progressive Democrats of Delaware held a panel on Delaware education funding.  The panelists were myself, Tony Allen (the Chair of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission), Brian Stephan (on the Christina Citizens Budget Oversight Committee), and State Rep. Paul Baumbach.

The main emphasis of the panel was to discuss the pros and cons of implementing a weighted funding system for Delaware schools.  In this type of system, students with higher needs would have more money allocated to them.  These would include low-income students, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities.  For the last, this already takes place with the exception of basic special education for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.

All the panelists were in agreement that the system we have is not working at all.  While I don’t necessarily have an issue with a weighted funding system, the devil is in the details.  But beneath the surface, as I stated towards the end of the panel, is the huge elephant in the room concerning accountability.  Not for standardized tests but where money is currently going.  There is no viable mechanism in Delaware to ensure the funds we are using in public education are truly going to the needs of students.  Our state auditor is supposed to audit every single traditional school district for all expenses, but when was the last time we saw one of those reports unless it was part of an official audit inspection?  There is no consistency with where funds are going.  There are so many sub-groups of payment allocations with many overlapping each other.  It is a beast to understand.  Coding expenses in definitive places is a must, but no one seems to want to address that at a state level.  It is my contention that throwing more money into the system is a recipe for disaster.

Say the advocates for better education in Wilmington schools do file a lawsuit.  What would the result be?  The feds have made important decisions in the past that put temporary band-aids on the issues but eventually the situation with “failing schools” comes up again and again.  The definition of a “failing school” is now tied to standardized tests.  It is the heart of all accountability in public education.  But it fails to address the issues facing students of poverty, spoken languages that are not English, and disabilities that are neurologically based.  The “one size fits all” mentality, which the Delaware Dept. of Education is still pushing in their first draft of the Every Student Succeeds Act state plan, doesn’t work.

Tony Allen told the group he was disappointed the WEIC Redistricting Plan didn’t pass in the General Assembly.  He said, without hesitation, that he fears a lawsuit will have to happen to truly address the issues facing Wilmington students.  He did concede that one of the biggest issues facing WEIC was not having representation from Kent and Sussex counties in the group.  This was something I advised WEIC about in public comment at their very first meeting in August of 2015.  It was also why I didn’t go to as many meetings as I could have.  But will a federal lawsuit fix Wilmington schools?

In my opinion, the biggest problem in Delaware education among high-needs students is a problem no judge, accountability system, General Assembly, or any advocate can fix: hopelessness.  In our biggest cities in the state, and reaching out into the suburbs and rural areas, is a drug problem of epic proportions.  And with African-American youth, that comes with a potential of joining a gang.  Until that problem is fixed, we will continue to spin our wheels trying to fix education.  We can have after-school programs and more guidance counselors in our schools.  That will help, but it will NOT solve the problem.  I don’t have the answer to that.  I don’t know who does.  But until we can fix that problem, making our schools the penicillin for the disease facing our state will not get to the heart of the issue.  With the drugs and gangs come extreme violence and people getting shot in the streets.  This “be tough or die” mentality is the deadliest issue facing Delaware.  And when those issues come into our schools, that is when education gets put in the bulls-eye of blame.

I have no doubt, at some point, Tony Allen, Jea Street and others will file some huge lawsuit against the State of Delaware.  And many will look towards a judge to solve all our problems.  It won’t.  Until we get really tough on hopelessness, we will fail.

Things To Know About Prestige Academy

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As announced about an hour ago, the Board of Directors at Prestige Academy opted out of renewing their charter in a letter to the Delaware Department of Education.  While a specific reason was not given, my hunch is the decision was made due to low enrollment.  The letter was dated October 1st, the day after the September 30th count in Delaware which determines funding for all Delaware public schools.

The school has certainly gone through enrollment woes since they opened.  In the 2014-2015 school year, they had 246 students.  After going on formal review in the Spring of 2015 based on their April 1st count, they were put on probation.  Their enrollment for the 2015-2016 year fell to 224.  Last Winter, they submitted a major modification to lower their enrollment and drop 5th grade.  This modification was approved by the State Board of Education last March.  They were up for charter renewal this fall, but apparently the board made the decision for themselves.

The all-boys charter school opened in August of 2011.  The school had their fair share of discipline incidents as well as higher populations of African-Americans, low-income, and students with disabilities.  In January of 2015, Jack Perry resigned as the original Head of School.  He was replaced by Cordie Greenlea, a former Christina and New Castle County Vo-Tech employee.

The school never had any major scandals like some other charters in Wilmington, but based on their student population with high needs, the school never seemed to find its footing.  Sadly, this is happening more and more in Delaware.  The charters that service students with severe needs are the ones that shut down.  Pencader, Reach, Moyer, Delaware Met, and now, Prestige Academy.  Meanwhile, charters that get all the rewards and accolades that don’t have demographics anywhere close to the districts around them, continue to thrive.  It isn’t working.  For the students in Wilmington that are shuffled around city schools… it can’t be good for them.

The only heat I ever got from the school was based on an article I wrote from when Jack Perry resigned.  But for the most part, they were quiet and did their thing.  At the end of the day, they opened the school hoping to make a difference for minority city students.  For those in Delaware who think all schools should be charters, there is a lesson to be learned here.  If all schools were charters we would be seeing dozens of charters closing each year.  We have become so obsessed with test scores we have lost sight of what truly matters… the students.

I’m sorry this school closed.  I never like to see any school close because of the severe disruption it puts students and their families through.  While Wilmington still seems to have a charter moratorium for any new charters, it didn’t stop the State Board of Education from approving several charters in the area for major modifications which increased their student enrollments.  Perhaps Prestige Academy would’ve had a fighting chance had the State Board followed the spirit of the legislation behind the moratorium.

Delaware has to do better by its students, especially those in our city schools.  I don’t believe having an influx of community organizations coming into our schools is the answer.  We have to increase funding for the schools that need it the most.  We need to stop with the slush money, in both charters and districts.  The excuse of “grant money” being allowed for a specific purpose is losing its meaning.  That money would be better off going to schools that need it more.  I am wary of all that the Every Student Succeeds Act has to offer.  So much of it is more of the same, just with more outside organizations coming into schools and the promise of what amounts to an eventual digital education for all.  Something has to give.  But our State Board and the Delaware DOE has to take a lot of the blame for this.  I have no doubt they were following whatever Governor Markell told them.  They play games with children’s lives with their wax-on/wax-off charter school agendas.  It is killing Delaware education!

My Thoughts On John Carney’s Proposed Education Policy

I wanted to get John Carney’s proposed education policy up fast to get people to read it ahead of his Meet and Greet tonight in Wilmington.  Upon reading it, I am left with more questions than answers.

First off, there is absolutely nothing in this regarding standardized testing, opt out, education technology, charter schools, Common Core, the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the ineffectiveness of the State Board of Education, or financial accountability.  In terms of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan, he openly admits he will pick which parts should be implemented, which means there are parts he feels should not go through.  There is a lot about early education in this.  So much so that he wants to give early education it’s own special “council” in state government.  He also has a lot of love for the Pathways to Prosperity program.  All of this gives me the feeling his administration has no desire to get rid of the very horrible education policies initiated by Governor Markell.  In fact, unless things change, this will be Markell 2.0.

I want to go through some of his policy and give thoughts on it.

Despite improvements over the past decade, too many students, especially poor and minority students, are not meeting the standards that have been set.

I assume he is talking about Common Core.  Those standards were forced on districts through Race To The Top as the state was struggling to dig out of the Recession.  By stating the “standards that have been set” it shows he is not willing to honor the flexibility of the Every Student Succeeds Act to change those standards to something more palatable for students, teachers, schools, and parents.  Those standards were created for the sole purpose of messing up education, not fixing it.  To create the upcoming “earn to learn” programs coming from the corporate futurists of America and turn future generations into subservient slaves of the state.

The last ten years have been a decade of reform in education at the national level and here in Delaware. While many of these changes have been positive, there have also been missed opportunities. As a result of shifting focus from one reform to the next, many good ideas have never been fully implemented and others were abandoned before we could assess their impact on students.

I would really like to know which changes have been positive John.  Common Core is a disaster.  So much so that you won’t even say the words.  The assessments that came out of Common Core are horrible.  This created an opt out movement which, while still growing in Delaware, caused 1/5th of all New York students to have their parents opt them out the past two years.  Missed opportunities is a bit of a misnomer.  Getting rid of the Minner reading specialists in our schools was a huge mistake.  The education reformers didn’t shift focus from one reform to the next.  They allowed bad policy to continue to erode public education and built more bad policy to connect it all.

The states that will be successful in the future are the ones that have a quality, well-trained workforce. The future of our state’s economy depends on the talents and skills that our young people have to offer. Our education system needs to be dynamic and responsive to the needs of a 21st century workforce to prepare our students for the opportunities that lie ahead.

Saying this doesn’t mean anything.  We have heard this from Jack Markell for the past eight years.  It means nothing.

With the development of the STARS program, Delaware has made real progress in helping children get to school better prepared to learn. Since 2012, the number of Delaware early learning programs that have earned the highest quality rating, five stars, has gone from 24 to 127.

I haven’t written much about the STARS program, but from what I’ve heard from many people, those who play ball with the DOE get the higher ratings.  Those who want to remain independent and do their own thing (with success) have been marginalized in favor of those who adhere to the guidelines of the DOE and the Early Education Race To The Top mandates.  While I agree with John that getting more low-income children into these programs is good, I don’t like what is happening in terms of this pre-school “rigor” in getting these children ready for Kindergarten.

Unfortunately, not every child grows up in a supportive household. And parents often need additional help and training to ensure that their children are learning the foundational lessons and skills that position them for success in school and beyond.

I have mixed emotions about this.  If parents need help, then yes, I think they should have the ability to get help and resources to allow them to be a better parent.  But where is the line drawn?  When does the line between letting parents be parents and state control get blurry?  What makes America a great country is the ability to have freedoms that other countries may not have.  Which means less government interference and control.  If there is a child in a broken home and is subject to abuse and violence, there are mechanisms in place to deal with that.  Those agencies should be doing more.  Cross-coordination is a good thing, but my fear is too many “non-profits” getting involved.  So many of these problems are outside of the education arena.

John will reorient the Department of Education from a focus on monitoring and mandates to a focus on collaboration and support for districts. He’ll create resource centers at DOE to ensure that teachers and curriculum directors have access to experts with deep knowledge in critical areas who can provide advice and guidance and help share best practices across district lines.

I have always thought the DOE should be trimmed down considerably.  But they do need to be a better monitor in certain areas, especially special education and school discipline.  But in the academic arena, there are far too many Delaware DOE “leaders” who lack sympathy and emotion in dealing with Delaware teachers unless they are those teachers who prescribe to the DOE’s reformy ideas.  By filling the DOE with “experts”, without giving any definition of what describes an “expert”, this is very worrisome.  I’ll just come right out and say that Rodel should have zero influence on Delaware education.  Their idea of education, a personalized learning/competency-based education/feeding the corporate wallets idea of education, is bad.  They want to transform education into the mantras of the business community.  We have far too many Rodel “experts” in Delaware education policy.  If these “experts” with “deep knowledge” are all about lessening the role of teachers into a “digital facilitator”, then no thanks.

Delaware’s regulations on school accountability were created under the burdensome, top-down rules mandated by the No Child Left Behind law. NCLB has been replaced with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which provides much more flexibility and input from state and local leaders who know the needs of their students the best. We should take full advantage of this opportunity and develop a plan that includes meaningful goals and appropriate accountability measures that keep Delaware students and schools on track.

The only things that will be acceptable to the majority of Delawareans will be the elimination of state assessments that really do nothing but provide data to the reformers to advance their dream of a cradle to grave apprenticeship workforce.  Once again, the “state and local leaders” part is very vague.  If it is the same representation we have had for the past ten years with many groups having the same like-minded and hand-picked people, then no thanks again.  I do see Kim Williams was picked for the ESSA Advisory Committee which is a good sign of potential change with these type of groups.  But let’s get the Rodel type people out of Delaware.  Enough already.  Until the very horrible Smarter Balanced is completely gone (including future stealth testing embedded into future digital classrooms) and teachers aren’t held  accountable for these tests, nothing will truly change John.  Opt out will get bigger and it will evolve to the point where parents are openly rebelling against all the ed tech their kids are subjected to. 

As Governor, John will work to improve the professional development offered to Delaware teachers by including relevant and meaningful lessons on Delaware’s standards, the science of student learning, and effective instruction for disadvantaged and trauma informed students.

Here we go again John!  Giving more “relevant” and “meaningful” lessons on horrible standards does absolutely nothing to address how bad the standards are.  Student learning is not just a “science”.  There are many factors that go into how children learn.  All the professional development in the world isn’t going to help student outcomes when they are in huge classrooms.  It won’t help the thousands of students with disabilities who are forced to adhere to these same standards you don’t want to give up.  It does nothing to address the extreme violence and rampant drug use in our state that forces children to carry these burdens into the classroom. 

Teachers shouldn’t have to become administrators to advance in their career. Excellent teachers should be able to stay in the classroom and take on leadership roles that help them expand their impact by mentoring their peers. Delaware is implementing a pilot “teacher-leader” program during the 2016-2017 school year. John will learn from this effort and move forward on a path that gives teachers throughout the state other options to move up, help their colleagues succeed, and increase student learning.

In other words, we don’t want to pay teachers all that administrator money.  But we will pick the teachers we want to be a “teacher-leader” like the DOE did before the committee to implement this program even came out with their final report.  And once again, we seem to have teacher-leaders who subscribe more to the Rodel way of doing things.

Teachers and principals are the ones who know their students the best, their successes and their struggles. John believes they should have input on using state resources in ways that will best meet their students’ needs.

Yes, but parents are the ones who know their children the best.  Once again, there is a very blurry line between the education setting and decisions best left at home.  We cannot turn schools into community centers that meet the needs of every student.  I can see very clearly where this is going.  To the death of brick and mortar schools.  Teachers will be gone.  Community centers run by non-profits like the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club will take the younger kids where they will have their gaming/personalized learning sessions all day while older kids will have constant online schooling from the home. 

To that end, he will also create a 21st Century Opportunity Grant program that creates additional flexibility in state education funding and gives teachers and principals needed resources and support to implement solutions that work for individual students.

Where are the parents in these decisions?  Will they be a part of these decisions about what will work best for their own child?  It is a parent’s decision to choose the best education for their child, not teachers and principals.  By leaving parents out of these decisions, it is more state control.  It will lead to the further erosion of families that is already taking place in our country.  The whole “grant” scheme ultimately doesn’t change outcomes for students.  It may help the more advantaged students, but they are typically filled with loopholes.  We have no accountability or belief that our districts and charters use the education funding they already get with fidelity.  How can we trust that these grant funds won’t serve to fatten already bloated cows?

The bar for students today is higher than it’s ever been, and Delaware has to rise to the challenge. Every Delaware student has to graduate high school prepared to succeed in college or the workforce.

The bar has always been high.  Every single generation in this country has had higher expectations than the one before.  But we have used this term to completely surrender control of education to companies John.  You might as well say we have to drink water to survive.  When you keep saying the same things Jack Markell said I have to wonder whose ideas these are.

We’re starting to make strong connections between students, training and apprenticeship programs, and Delaware employers.

In other words, companies don’t want to train their own employees while we continue to cut their corporate taxes.  They get immensely richer while the cost of living for the average citizen rises exponentially.  Health costs are out of control.  These programs are nothing more than corporate giveaways but at a scale never seen before.  Where the state does what companies should be doing in the first place.

Forty two percent of Delaware students have to complete a remedial English or Math class when they get to college. These classes cost money and don’t count for credit, making it more difficult for students to earn their degree. Studies show that 30% of students required to take a remedial class in college never graduate with a bachelor’s degree.

Just more proof that Common Core doesn’t work and we need to get back to education that works.  You can’t have it both ways John.  You can’t say the standards are set and then complain about how students have to take remedial classes. 

They’re taking classes and earning professional certifications in professions like computer science, engineering, and biomedical science. And the certifications they’re earning can be taken directly to the workforce, or help them further their education in college.

Once upon a time, a high school diploma meant something.  A college degree meant something.  But now we are entering the age of “certifications”.  Which will eventually become digital if the education/industrial complex gets their way.  This is, once again, a boon to the companies.  Not to public education.

He’ll also work to expand partnerships between Delaware Tech and the state’s high schools to get more students the critical skills and qualifications they need to be valuable members of the workforce.

The critical skills and qualifications students need are in post-secondary education.  They go to college to get those skills.  K-12 education should be about preparing them for college, not the workforce.  If students don’t want to go to college, we need to stop relying on taxpayers to pay for company training.  We are turning today’s youth into something companies want.  The price on future American ingenuity and success is going to be very high when all of these agendas are fully realized.  But today’s leaders don’t see that.  They want to profit on it now and don’t care if they kick the can down the road when it all comes apart.

Career readiness must be a priority, and it starts with assessing schools based on how they are preparing their students for the workforce.

Come on John!  Enough already.  I won’t continue with the same thing I’ve been saying throughout this article.  This future nightmare you are setting up is more of the same.

As Governor, John will make sure effective career readiness measures are included in Delaware’s system, incentivizing schools and districts to invest in these programs.

All incentivizing does is set up winners and losers John.  It doesn’t give any true equity or equality in education.  It further separates the haves from the have-nots.  What happens to schools or districts that don’t want to play this game?  Will they be marginalized and disrespect in the future?  And where is all this money going to come from to “incentivize” these schools?  Our state economy is not looking good and the numbers released from DEFAC yesterday don’t look promising.  Your ideas to incentivize schools for companies to profit comes at the expense of the already over-burdened low-income and middle-class tax paying citizens. 

In reading the proposed education policies of John Carney, the only words that come to mind are severely disappointing.  This is what we waited for?  More of the same?  I don’t see too many original ideas.  The biggest idea, changing the DOE, isn’t exactly a new idea.  People have been screaming about that in Delaware for years.  But the DOE is only a reflection of their true master: Rodel and the other corporate education reformers.  In reading this, John Carney appears to be yet another puppet for our future masters.

I can see why Carney refused to answer the questions I sent to him.  By answering those in any way it would have showed how he is no better than Jack Markell.  I have to wonder who even wrote this document.  Because I don’t see the words “we” too much in it.  I see a lot of “John”.  This is DOE or Rodel talk.  I’ve seen it enough times to know the lingo.  Make no mistake, this isn’t John Carney’s Delaware.  This is we the people’s Delaware.  You serve us, not the corporations.  It looks like the possibility of my being able to have a good relationship with Carney are diminishing by the day…

We do have other options come Election Day.  But will Delaware be able to get out of their party purist mindset to realize they are sacrificing their children, grandchildren, and future generations to corporate slavery to make a difference?

Delaware DOE Praises Higher Income Schools For Smarter Balanced Results

Like a record with a skip, that keeps playing the same song over and over again, the Delaware Department of Education continues to praise traditional district schools and charter schools that are known to have very small populations of low-income students.  They can try to celebrate the “growth” and “gains” on this test, but until I get verification on what their cut scores were for both last year and this year, it is pointless to see any type of gain or growth.  We already know students don’t receive all the same items on this test so it’s viability is already out the window.

This Department is so out of touch with reality I don’t think they could turn it around even if they tried.  They are so embedded in the false ideologies and agendas that seek to destroy public education they don’t seem to be able to see the reality behind it all.  They are blinded by their own power.  It is, in some respects, very sad to see.  We are a small state, which should work in our favor.  Instead, we have our schools, students, educators, parents, and tax-paying citizens suffering from a state Department that thrives on rigor and accountability.  They are supported by a Governor that is not influenced by these agendas, but helped to create them.  I eagerly await major changes and for those who have the power to change things to wake up from this long nightmare.  I urge parents to opt out of this horrible test and keep their children far away from it.

Poverty & High-Stakes Tests = Oil & Water… Do You Get It Now?

The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing. -Albert Einstein

If you go to a charter school in Delaware without a lot of low-income and poverty, the chances are pretty good you will do better on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Pictures don’t lie.  Yes, there are some exceptions, but for the most part, the odds speak for themselves.  Even the former “heroes” of Delaware like EastSide Charter School are not immune to the wrath of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

CharterSBACProfLowInc

Now you might be thinking, “you didn’t put in all the charters”.  I didn’t put in Gateway Lab School and Positive Outcomes.  Their populations are mainly special education and they did not do well on this test at all.  Freire and Great Oaks don’t have their low-income data on the DOE website.  Academia Alonso only goes up to 2nd grade so far.  Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, Delaware Design-Lab, Delaware Military Academy, and Early College High School are all high schools, so now Smarter Balanced for them!  And who knows where Delaware College Prep is.  I’m assuming their scores will be included with Red Clay’s when those come out, but they’re closing anyways.

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The traditional school districts didn’t have as drastic of a low-income impact on Smarter Balanced proficiency, but the data for each school in the districts won’t be out until next month.  That will give us a much better idea of how low-income status affects different schools.

It would be nice if the poor were to get even half of the money that is spent in studying them. -William Vaughn

To see how all the kids did in the state, take a look at the below fluff piece that was presented to the Delaware State Board of Education by the DOE’s Instructional and Accountability guru, Michael Watson.  While the participation rates may have gone up in a lot of schools, more parents were opting their kids out than last year.  And I believe that trend will continue when a lot of parents see their child still isn’t proficient on this test.  There has to come a point in time when parents start thinking this test really is bad and if I want my child to get a good education, it can’t be based on this test.

At this point, you have to ask yourself, if standardized tests are bad for teachers, and they’re bad for kids, who exactly are they good for? -John Oliver

As Delaware teacher Mike Matthews brilliantly pointed out to Governor Markell (see the article before this one), poverty has a huge effect on educational outcomes.  We can pretend it doesn’t, but until we somehow find a way to eliminate that, we will see the same results every standardized test tells us.  They are socio-economic indicators.  That’s it.  I’m sure the Delaware DOE and State Board of Education will start flinging mud at a ton of schools, and we will fight them.  You can’t ignore these graphs, especially the charter schools.  They are more extreme because of enrollment practices.  We all know it.  Let’s stop pretending certain ones are great success stories.

My innovative education program will improve school accountability, fix our flawed state testing system and ensure school funds directly benefit Delaware’s children—and are not wasted on bureaucratic overhead costs. By attracting and retaining the best teachers through competitive salaries and benefits, we will improve classroom learning and reduce drop-out rates. We must expand early education programs and link preschools with local school districts to create a unified learning environment. -Jack Markell from his Blueprint For Delaware, 2008

You know, it’s amazing.  I’ve not yet met a single parent or teacher who tells me that their hopes and their aspirations for children are wrapped up in scores on high-stakes tests.  We have designed an education system that profits test-makers.  Now we need an accountability system that benefits the test-takers.  And as Governor, I will scrap the Delaware Student Testing Program and I will replace it with an assessment tool that helps teachers improve student learning. -Jack Markell at DSEA Primary Debate against John Carney and Mike Protack, 2008

Is Senate Bill 193 An Antidote To Priority Schools, A Social Impact Bond, or a WEIC Alternative?

This is a very interesting piece of legislation introduced today.  This is almost like an anti-priority schools bill.  Take the schools with the most economically disadvantaged students and offer grants to those schools at up to $1 million a year for three years.  It looks great, but I don’t recall seeing these funds in the budget.  So where are the funds coming from?  The bill only says the funds would be appropriated from the state.  It doesn’t specify if these funds would come from the general funds or what the source of revenue is for this.  If this is a social impact bond deal, I can’t support that.  I have many questions with this one.  The Joint Finance Committee slashed education proposals in the budget mark-up last week so why would legislators introduce a new bill that guarantees grant funding of $3 million by the Delaware DOE for the next three years beginning in August 15th of this year?  Unless…

Could this be a way of getting funding through in the event the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan doesn’t pass?  The devil is in the details on this one…

My Observations From The Education Funding Task Force Meeting Tonight

I attended the first half of the Delaware Education Funding Task Force meeting tonight.  After Delaware Governor Jack Markell gave some brief opening comments thanking the members of the committee for their hard work, he advised them this isn’t an easy task force.  As he was leaving, he made a point to greet and shake hands with everyone in the room.  And I mean everyone!

Members trickled in so the meeting didn’t start until about 5:20.  There are some very vocal members on this committee with very strong ideologies.  The bad part is when many of them are different.  I have no clue how this group is going to come to a consensus in the next couple months.  I saw members on this task force who belong to the General Assembly (who listened for the most part), DOE, State Board, the traditional districts, the charter crowd, Rodel, school boards, the business community, Delaware PTA, GACEC, and advocates for ELL students.

Donna Johnson from the State Board of Education did make it a point to talk about the group’s discussions about basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  I do recall seeing a potential funding model where funds were reallocated in the needs-based funding formula for the state.  But this shouldn’t even be a topic of conversation for an education funding task force.  Put House Bill 30 up for a full vote and get it done.  It’s what, $11.5 million to fund that bill?  Make it happen.  Maybe the DOE can get rid of a ton of their vendor contracts and their non-vendor paychecks for all these people who show up on Delaware Online Checkbook with no transparency surrounding these payments whatsoever.  After all, the DOE were the ones that torpedoed this funding when the topic first came up six years ago.

It was interesting hearing some members talk about the lack of authority for a school principal to make funding decisions.  This was more from the charter side of the equation.  But members on the other side disagreed, saying they have the authority based on the pool of money they get from the district.  One member said even if they do find the right number or formula for funding, how do you audit that?  Does that money allocated as extra support for low-income and ELL students mean reduced classroom sizes or more teachers?  Some members felt that because 41 states have successful funding formulas that will translate as success for Delaware.  But how is that success measured?  By standardized tests?  Graduation rates?  Will they have pilot schools or districts to try it out?  What does low-income and poverty mean in terms of percentage of students?  Since the state changed how they measure poverty, but the DOE goes by one thing and DHHS goes by another, which is right?  If the group doesn’t necessarily agree with the WEIC funding formulas, what does that mean for the General Assembly when they vote on the redistricting in Wilmington?  If the majority of the group believes changing property assessments is the way to go what does that mean for the property owners who have no voice on this committee?  We should do what California does and vote on propositions like this.  Then we will see where the real voting power exists!

There were people at this meeting who I have never seen face to face but I have written about them a bit.  One as recently as last Thursday.  I had to pick up some groceries and my son REALLY wanted Dairy Queen so I snuck out while the group was on their pizza break.  I wished I could have stayed, but family first!  I am very curious what comes out of the final 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 I Want Your Vote For The Capital School Board

TwitterAnnouncement

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

CapitalSchoolBoardPoster

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