The Pizza

Sometimes one memory is all it takes to bring you to tears.

In the second half of the 2011-2012 school year, I was a paraprofessional for an 8th-9th grade Math class at Campus Community School.  It was the high school’s last full year as they were closing it and moving the elementary school to that location.  Mrs. Eldridge’s math class was different.  This was before Common Core really took off.  My job was to help students who were struggling with different concepts or problems.

In this capacity, I got to know many of these young teenage students.  One of them I will call A.  She was bubbly, energetic, and talkative.  I also helped to monitor the cafeteria while students were having lunch.  I would often joke around with A and her friends at their table.  They were always laughing and having fun.  In the Math class, A was having difficulty getting her grade up.  She was very intelligent, and capable of doing the work.  But focus seemed to be tough for her.  By the end of the year, A had to get some assignments completed or she wasn’t going to pass.  Mrs. Eldridge offered after-school help but by the end of the year many students were behind.  A asked if I could help her after school to complete her assignments.  Since I was a paraprofessional, my hours were limited and I wouldn’t get paid to help her after the school day ended.  But I offered to do it for free.  A told me she was going to order pizza.  I thought she was joking about that part!

As Mrs. Eldridge worked with other students, A and I churned through her assignments.  The pizza came and I was starving.  I believe it was a meat lovers pizza.  I had to redirect A a few times but she got it all done and passed the class.  I was very proud of her.  Sometimes a student just needs that extra little push to just get it done.  If it takes some volunteer time after school, bribed by a student with free pizza, why not!

Yesterday, A was tragically killed.  Shot in a Dover motel room by her fiancé.  Since her name hasn’t been officially released, I won’t say it here.  But everyone on Facebook knows at this point.  She was a good kid.  Like all teenagers, they have their moments.  But taking her life shouldn’t have been the way to work things out.  That kind of solution isn’t acceptable.

As messages and Facebook comments poured in, I began to get a clearer picture of what happened to A.  Her fiancé put a post up on Facebook not long ago about doing what he eventually did.  It looks like friends tried to warn her about him.  As he sits in a cell, A is gone from this world forever.  A young and beautiful soul, unable to complete what life was going to send her way.  I know God has a plan for everything.  I believe that.  But I will never understand this kind of cruelty.

A was one student of many I helped out in the math class.  I remember them all.  I saw several of them posting comments yesterday on her Facebook page.  Most of them either graduated last year or will this year.  A was graduating this year.  I only knew her for a very short period in her life.  But I cried for her nonetheless.  I pray for her family and friends during this time and hope they can eventually make sense of this one day.  Many of us are in shock today.  We will miss you A!

I have to believe something isn’t quite right when someone makes the decision her fiancé did.  The fact it happened the way it did shows some type of planning on his part.  After all, he did “predict” this with his Facebook post.  The heart is very forgiving when it wants to be but don’t ever let your mind ignore a threat.  Sometimes people say stupid things, but sometimes they don’t.  It is difficult to discern a thought from a planned action.  There are no easy answers…

Delaware College Report Gives Mixed Message On Remediation Rates

RemedialMeme

The Delaware Department of Education released the Delaware College Report for 2016.  Basing the information off the Class of 2014, the report shows remediation rates, students taking classes when they enter college, to still be high.  Nine districts lowered their numbers between 2012-2014.  Say, wasn’t the Smarter Balanced Assessment supposed to eliminate all these remedial classes?  Oh yeah, they took it away from high school juniors in lieu of the revamped SAT.  So much for that anti-opt-out idea!  But seriously, are these rates higher because of Common Core or in spite of it?  I guess we will know the answers to these questions in the next 8 years when the class of 2024 graduates.  This class would be the first to have Common Core from Kindergarten to 12th grade.  Provided it doesn’t become extinct by then.  We can all say a prayer for that!

The Delaware DOE also provided a press release with the announcement:

State Report: High student remediation rates remain

Of Delaware public high school graduates entering an in-state college or university, 42 percent will begin their post-secondary education behind their peers, according to the state’s 2016 College Success Report released today.  

 
Students who do not score well on college placement tests may be forced to take and pass non-credit, remedial courses before entering the college-level courses required for their degrees. These courses often cost the same as credit-bearing classes but don’t count toward a student’s degree.  

 

In Delaware – as is the case across the country – many students are graduating high school unprepared for the level of rigor necessary in a college course. Acceptance to college does not guarantee readiness for college. The Delaware Department of Education report released today — which includes school- and district-level data — outlines recommendations for schools, districts, and the state to better prepare all students for college success.  

 

“We already know that there is a strong correlation between the classes that students are prepared to take, the supports available to different students to succeed in those classes and student outcomes after graduation,” Secretary of Education Steve Godowsky said.
“We need to ensure that students are prepared to succeed in college before they enter the 12th grade. Some districts and schools are already seeing progress. We need to continue this good work and seek additional ways to better support our students.”  

 

Early signs of progress  

 

Over the last few years, districts have increased access to college-level courses such as dual-enrollment and Advanced Placement classes. In addition, the state began a pilot course in the 2014-15 school year called Foundations of College Math to serve as a bridge course for students likely to require remediation in college.   

 

These efforts are showing signs of early progress and the state has seen an overall reduction in remediation rates since 2012, the report found. Nine Delaware schools and districts have also started to reduce student remediation rates through changes to their curriculum and targeted student supports.   

During her senior year at Woodbridge High School, Katelyn Harding, 18, took Foundations of College Math.  

 

Now a freshman at Wesley College in Dover, Harding says her first-semester math course was a “breeze” because of the strong math groundwork she received at Woodbridge.

 

“With the teacher I had and just the atmosphere of the class, it made everything I had already learned come to life,” Harding said.  

 

Foundations of College Math provided Harding with the introduction to algebra equations and quadratic functions that she needed to ace her Wesley class.  
 
“In my first semester I was learning how to find vertexes and things I could not even imagine,” Harding said. ““I liked that the course in high school was mainly just basics because without them, I would probably not be doing so well now.”   

 

This year’s College Success Report makes specific recommendations for all Delaware schools and districts to follow as they work to improve student preparedness for college and continue the successes they have already seen.   

 

Woodbridge High School in the Woodbridge School District is among a handful of districts receiving recognition from the state this year for its reduction in student remediation rates.   

 

“We are excited by the fact that a higher percentage of our students are entering Delaware colleges without the need to take remedial courses.  This can be attributed to the hard work of our staff and the continued belief that our students are capable of achieving at higher levels,” Superintendent Heath Chasanov said. “Although, we certainly aren’t satisfied with our current percentages, we believe that this reduction in remedial rates will be a trend and not simply a one-time occurrence.”  

 

POLYTECH Principal Jason Peel credited the dedication of his school’s math teachers, who have “embraced Common Core and the need for more rigorous math instruction.”  

 

The school stopped offering pure remedial math in ninth grade and instead enrolled the students in Algebra I with an extra period of supports. Year-long geometry and Algebra II courses were created for struggling students with extra support classes (double periods). Enrichment period supports also were instituted during the day for struggling math students, Peel said.   

 

Special education supports in math were aligned so that co-teachers work together and have the same planning period on a more consistent basis. And POLYTECH quadrupled its AP Calculus enrollment and added an AP Statistics course.  

 

Other districts recognized for reducing remediation rates between 2012 and 2014 include: Colonial, Delmar, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech, Red Clay Consolidated, Smyrna and Sussex Tech.  


Two different college experiences  

 

After a concentrated review of student remediation data from 2012 through 2014, Delaware’s 2016 College Success Report highlights that 42 percent of all public and charter school graduates enrolling in a Delaware college are unprepared to successfully complete a college-level course. These students require remediation classes before their first-year college courses.   Remediation classes yield zero credits and are often offered at a significant cost to students. Nationally, less than 50 percent of students enrolled in remedial courses actually finish them. Furthermore, 3 in every 10 students who require remediation in college never graduate with a bachelor’s degree.   

 

Students taking remedial courses must take additional courses that their peers aren’t required to take. They can’t successfully enroll in their college courses until they have completed the remedial courses. For some students this can set them a full semester or more behind. For students depending on financial aid to cover the costs of college, this can increase their overall debt as many scholarships will not cover these courses.   

 

Several states across the country are starting to examine the remediation issue as more students are dropping out of college, taking longer to complete their degrees or graduating with significant debt.   
Remediation numbers are also significantly higher for students of color, students with special needs, English language learners (ELLs), and students from low-income families. 

 

 

Eliminating remediation  

 

For students, the path to remediation begins early. Each year more students make the decision to enroll in college. A college acceptance letter marks a significant milestone in a student’s educational journey and the path to the career of their dreams; however, the decisions and goals achieved prior to the college acceptance letter determine a student’s first year college experience.  

 

As students and parents work with their schools to select classes each year, they may not realize that not all classes will equally prepare students for success in college. The difference between an Advanced Placement course or a college prep course may ultimately mean a student graduates less prepared for college-level English, for example.    

 

Similarly, students taking less rigorous courses in math will find themselves more likely to be placed in remedial courses. This means that a student placed in Algebra II over calculus is also at a disadvantage and more likely to need college remediation than if the student had been given the opportunity to enroll in more-difficult classes.    

 

“We’re not just suggesting that schools place students in the more rigorous courses, such as calculus or Advanced Placement,” Shana Payne, director of the department’s Higher Education Office, said. “Our systems must be designed to prepare students to succeed in these courses. The data show that the more advanced courses a student takes before graduating high school, the less likely the student is to need remediation in college.”             

 

The department is calling on educators to use the data from the 2016 College Success Report alongside other measurements, such as the 10th grade PSAT and the 11th grade SAT, to provide targeted interventions to students as soon as they are identified as not yet meeting the college-readiness benchmark.   

 

Using this data, schools have the opportunity to identify when students are falling behind and provide the supports and access to more challenging courses so they can be ready for those first-year college courses.   

 

Additionally, evaluating curriculum and instructional practices in all classes can help to reduce and eliminate these knowledge gaps students are demonstrating before students reach the 12th grade.   

 

“The shift from 12th grade to college should be as simple as the shift from eighth grade to ninth grade or kindergarten to first grade,” said Michael Watson, the department’s chief academic officer. “Every student with a college acceptance letter and a Delaware high school diploma should be prepared to succeed in the college he or she chooses to attend.”
 
 
Alison May
alison.may@doe.k12.de.us
302-735-4006

ESSA Part 1: US Secretary’s Power Questioned In The “Every Student Succeeds Act”

This is a massive read.  At 1,069 pages, I have to wonder how every member of the United States House and Senate will actually have time to read the whole thing.  There is a great deal of legalese written into this.  It can be repetitive at times, but that is also when you need to look at it the most.  I haven’t even finished it yet.  Like most laws, it refers you to prior paragraphs or sections.

For the states, the US Secretary of Education now has limited power.  The Secretary can no longer use things like Common Core or Race To The Top to coerce states into programs and agendas.  But each state must submit their “state standards” to the Secretary who has the power to approve or deny the request.  But when the states submit their plans, it can’t just be the Governor and the state DOE.

ESSA5

This means the state legislators must also be a part of the process for picking the state standards, something most states should have already had in the first place.  In the case of Delaware, this did not happen with any meaningful affect.

ESSA7.1

ESSA7.2

The US Secretary of Education has too much power even with this bill.

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For the initial review of a state’s submitted plan, the Secretary has to utilize other folks within the US DOE to review the plan.  But if a state makes changes, the Secretary seems to have this executive power to approve or deny those changes.  So much for Democracy…

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Math, English Language Arts, and Science.  Those are the three mandatory subjects that must be in a state’s plan.  No Social Studies.

ESSA12

This is where it gets very confusing.  If the Secretary has the power to approve or deny “the challenging State academic standards” (get used to those words, you will be hearing them a lot), what power has been removed?  With that power, I see a great deal of control and direction already.  What backroom deals were made for a bill that was designed to limit federal control?  The actual product doesn’t really show this driving need for what was supposed to be the main purpose of the bill.

All The DOE Assessment Information Given To Districts In Delaware

On Wednesday, November 18th, the Delaware Department of Education had a meeting with all the district testing coordinators to go over all things assessment.  This includes the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the assessment inventory campaign, accommodations, and more.  It looks like the DOE’s Office of Assessment will be raiding monitoring visiting every single public school in the state over the coming months.  But who will lead this office now that Schwinn and Reyna are bidding adieu?

Delaware PTA Issues Statement On Smarter Balanced Assessment Results

The Delaware PTA just unveiled a press release to their members on their views of the recently announced Smarter Balanced Assessment results.  These are questions everyone in this state should be asking, especially our legislators.  They voted this into state code, and as far as I’m concerned, they can vote it right out!

DELAWARE PTA

9/8/2015

 

How Does A Student Get A 4 On DCAS At A Charter, Transfer To A Public School, And Can’t Read?

This is what I’ve heard about one student in the Northern part of Delaware.  This child went to a charter school that has been in the news a bit lately.  Getting the ultimate score of 4 on both English and Math on the DCAS test, this student transferred to their local school district.  Upon taking the SRI reading test, it was very quickly discovered this student cannot even read.  The worst part: this is a student with disabilities.

Apparently this student also took the DCAS with NO accommodations.  How is this even possible?  Unless…  Yes, this charter school is a cheat.  They found a way to make their scores even better for special needs students.  Their big mistake though was not doing the same for all students, and they were questioned about it.

This is why the high-stakes standardized testing game needs to be eliminated as any source of proficiency for students.  If a school can rig the game and an honest school doesn’t, it changes the entire landscape.  Especially if those with a vested interest in certain schools helped to design the test.  So while we have schools doing the right thing, and they are laid out on the floor for doing so, other schools have been cheating for years and unless they have other major problems flowing like water through a burst pipe, they get away with it.

I do believe there are honest charter schools as well.  Ones that work their ass off when they get low scores one year and only increase marginally the next but they are saved from the executioner’s axe.  But the ones that are cheating, and I know who a few of you are, you are the most vile disgusting scum in the state.  It’s not because you look better on paper.  It’s not because the DOE and Markell want to give you a ticker-tape parade when your scores are released.  It’s not because you narrowed the gap among different subgroups.  It’s because you are failing our students.  The students aren’t failures, you are.  You have been given a sacred trust, and you abuse that trust every chance you get.  These are human beings, not human capital.  They are children.  They are not to be used as pawns in your power games.

This is why we have priority schools.  This is why so many special needs children suffer so much in this state.  How can any student in any of these cheating schools ever be given a fair shot in life?  How can parents of charter school students accuse public school districts of giving free passes to students when some of these very same schools permanently damage students?  How in God’s name will any of these “proficient” students feel when they take the Smarter Balanced Assessment and fail miserably?

I encourage anyone who knows about these cheating scandals to come forward.  Cause if I expose you, it won’t be pretty.  I’m not sure why I’m assigning myself the job the DOE should be doing in the first place, but hey, that’s life.  There has to be a place in hell for anyone who would use children like this.  I think there should be legislation put forth that anyone involved in a cheating scandal like this should be prosecuted and do prison time if found guilty.  Does this sound too harsh?  Imagine how the poor student at a new school who thought they were doing good in school feels.  Being told you can’t read.  How do the parents feel?  Thinking their child is doing well only to find out it was all a lie and their child is most likely years behind their peers?  This is a rape of the mind, of the soul.

Smarter Balanced Field Test Scores: Most IEP Students Will Fail!

According to a report released by The Advocacy Institute, students with IEPs had a wide gap against their non-disabled peers in the category of 1, the lowest level you can score on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The gaps show an average of well over 30 points in English/Language Arts and Math.

The largest gaps, over 40 points, seems to occur in the 7th grade.  The lowest, at 28 points is occurring in 3rd grade.  The IEP students who scored a 4 on the field test averaged well below 5% of the entire IEP student population.  With an average somewhere between 65-70% for all students with special education scoring at a 1 on this Common Core test, and an average for ALL students scoring at a 1 or 2 around 60%, the facts are undeniable.  This test sucks.

So I will say once again: Opt Out Now!  It doesn’t matter if your kid has an IEP or not, because the odds are in favor your kid will fail this test.  This test he/she has been preparing for since the beginning of the school year.  What a colossal waste of time and money and resources.

For more information about these percentages for each grade level, please go to: http://www.advocacyinstitute.org/blog/?p=582

My Special Needs Son’s First Day Of Common Core Division & This Is His Homework

This was my son’s math homework tonight.  My son with special needs.  This was his first day of division.  Can someone, in the name of all that is holy, tell me exactly what the hell this is?  I know what it’s supposed to be.  But it is not.  It is a confusing, prime example of the agony that is Common Core.  Students should not be subjected to this.  My son is in tears right now, missing his 4th grade teacher and he hates 5th grade.  This isn’t what school should be about.  It shouldn’t be this hard.  It should be about learning at an appropriate grade level.

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This isn’t even 5th grade level work with this kind of math.  This is 7th grade or 8th grade.  Really?  Delaware and any state that is using this curriculum needs to be ashamed of themselves.  And you want to test my special needs student on this material?  OVER MY DEAD BODY!!!!  I will not subject him to this hell.  Parents, we need to wake up and open our eyes to this reality.  This isn’t making our children ready for college.  It’s a curriculum that our own Secretary of Education Mark Murphy already expects 70% of our students to fail on the state test next Spring.  What will that do to students confidence?  They will be made to feel like failures.  With that comes rejection and isolation in their perceived view of the world.  This is a sin beyond proportion.

Parents, I have only one more thing to say: Opt-out of this and demand your legislators immediately ban this torture being inflicted on our children.  The ONLY reason schools aren’t against this is because they feel they have no choice.  But parents do, and it is our time to rise up and take back our children’s education.