The Resolution That Is A Must-Read For All Teachers, Students, Parents, & Politicians

On Tuesday evening, the Christina School District Board of Education voted 6-0 on a resolution to bring some sanity back to public education.  I love, love, love this resolution!  Christina Board President Elizabeth Paige drafted the resolution and it should become a policy for every single school district and charter school in America!

Christina School District Board of Education Resolution in Support of Unstructured Learning Time

Whereas, the mission of the Christina School District supports fostering a nurturing learning environment; and,

Whereas, unstructured learning time has been proven to enhance a child’s social development and ability to problem solve; and,
Whereas, play improves memory and stimulates brain development; and,

Whereas, play is necessary for ELL students to develop social language that is less formal than academic language; and,

Whereas, play fosters an environment of cooperation and scaffolding of learning among children at different ages/stages and encourages children to connect academic experiences to real-world scenarios; and,

Whereas, research proves that children who are exposed to at least 15 minutes of unstructured play time during the day exhibit better behavior during academic time than children who are not offered a break; and,

Whereas, research published in the Early Childhood Education Journal revealed that both free play and adult-guided play can help young children learn awareness of other people’s feelings and that play helps to teach kids to regulate their own emotions; and,

Whereas, evidence informs us that a lack of ample time for undirected, self-chosen play/activities contributes to mental health problems such as rising rates of stress, anxiety, and depression, and therefore should be treated as an important provision in the scheduling of student time; and,

Whereas, studies show that frequent small breaks are more beneficial to student emotional and physical health as well as academic achievement; therefore,

Be it resolved that the Christina School District Board of Education affirms that play is a positive aspect of being a student in a public school system; and,

Be it further resolved that in all Christina School District elementary schools, unstructured learning time should be provided to all students in varying degrees, but in quantities no less than 20 minutes daily; and,

Be it further resolved that recess shall be supplementary to unstructured learning time inside the classroom; and,
Be it further resolved that the Christina School District Board of Education affirms its support for unstructured learning time and recess for students in grades 6-8; and,

Be it further resolved that the Christina School District Board of Education supports the fact that appropriate amounts of time for play and/or freely chosen activities are necessary for healthy development and should be provided during the school day; and,

Be it further resolved that the Christina School District Board of Education supports the evidence that play increases student abilities in the areas of critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, executive functioning, communication skills, empathy, and self-regulation; and,

Be it ultimately resolved that the Christina School District believes that ample time for student-driven, unstructured play must be included among the essential learning experiences in the education of our students. Beyond physical activity, these experiences include imaginative play, creative/constructive play, and games with rules. Student engagement in undirected, freely chosen activities is an essential component of healthy human development as well as a necessity for social/emotional, physical, and cognitive growth of children.

First State Montessori Academy Enrollment Preference Arguments Heat Up

 

fsma-icons

On Saturday, I published an article concerning First State Montessori Academy’s major modification request to increase their enrollment and add middle school grades.  To say this has been controversial would be an understatement.  Public Comment, whether it was on this blog or through the official public comment channel on the DOE Charter School Office website.  Last night, the Public Hearing for First State Montessori’s major modification request was held.  When the transcript from the hearing becomes available I will put it up here.

At their December 2nd board meeting, First State Montessori talked about forming a committee to explore the option of increasing their enrollment and adding extra grades.  The board passed a motion to increase their enrollment by 5-15%.  School leader Courtney Fox said they would have to get a major modification request to the DOE by 12/31/15.  What is very interesting here is the school leader’s mention of the Delaware Met building next to them, at 920 N. French St.  While she doesn’t come out and say it, it is obvious the school is assuming Delaware Met would be closed.  The board doesn’t even mention the possibility of adding middle school grades at this point in time either, only adding more Kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms.  As well, Fox, who is NOT a member of the board, announces a future meeting to discuss the possibility of the modification request and increasing their enrollment.  Why did the board not vote on this?  Does Fox run the board as well as the school?

On December 19th, an agenda for a 12/28/15 board meeting was put up on their website.  It indicated their would be an update on the Exploring Expansion Committee.  One would assume the board voted at that meeting on their major modification request and to add middle school grades.  By this time, the announcement by the State Board of Education over Del Met’s closure was old news.  Three days after Christmas is a very odd time to have a board meeting.  While the board did do the right thing in putting up the agenda at least a week prior to the meeting, how much ability was there for members of the public to know about this meeting and potentially weigh in on the topic?  On the flip side, the State Board voted on the charter revocation for Del Met on 12/16 so the school had to see what would happen with that decision before moving forward.  But I still find it ironic there is no definitive plan set in motion earlier in December to add middle school grades to the school and all of a sudden it materializes in their major modification request submitted on 12/30/15.

This is merely conjecture on my part, but we already know the DOE suggested DAPSS submit a major modification request instead of a minor modification request.  How much input should the DOE have in suggesting modification requests to Delaware charter schools?  And what of Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network who seems to be a intermediary between charter schools and the Delaware DOE?  I will be very upfront and say something really doesn’t smell right here.  And with all these modification requests coming from charter schools how can we be sure this could not somehow influence the State Board of Education’s vote on the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan?

In the meantime, check out what folks had to say about this hot topic:

“J” said:

Kevin, the interest in Montessori thing is as easy as taking a tour or even talking for a moment to someone from the school in the community. They are at the expo and other events. Have held info sessions at local libraries, etc. It’s easy. The Montessori model is very different. There are mixed grade classrooms, no traditional desks, no traditional homework packets. Very different and something that families and students should be aware of. “Interest” in this case is awareness of the differences, that’s all.
Ask about it – learn about it. Heck, e mail me. This doesn’t cherry pick anything.

Eve Buckley said:

The questions raised in the final comment have been asked since FSMA opened. According to DOE’s “school profiles” for this school year, FSMA students are 65% white and 8% low-income. The two districts surrounding it are 44% white, 35% low-income (Red Clay) and 32% white, 41% low-income (Christina); those figures include suburban regions with less poverty than the city. So FSMA could clearly be doing more to attract and retain a student population more reflective of its surrounding communities (or even of the countywide student population). No pressure in that direction from its authorizer?
Note that Cab and Newark Charter, also very popular “choice” options, also have low-income % around 8. That seems to be the sweet spot for appealing to middle class public school consumers in the area (if you can’t achieve the 2% attained via testing by CSW).

Mike O said:

For families who “choose not to apply” to charters such as NCS or Montessori, I am sure many don’t even realize those are public schools their child is eligible for. Which is how you get to 8% low income without testing

jane s said:

it’s especially sad to see this happening at an elementary school. the goal should be to give children the best start possible regardless of their background. this could be a place that helps children enter middle school and high school on equal ground, but instead it’s just adding to the divide. nothing will change if people don’t speak out.

Eve Buckley said:

I agree! It is really sad–waste of an opportunity.

jenn said:

hi. i think the practices of fsma are fair and comprehensive. interest becomes a priority only because the montessori method is not of interest to everyone, much like a dual-language school like aspira is not of high-priority to many families. if you are to apply to fsma, because it’s a school in your neighborhood, without carrying any interest in montessori principles, then how detrimental will that student be in the classroom? (in terms of congruence, not as a human!) i do not know why the five-mile radius is not ‘more of a priority’, but i believe the admissions process does indeed actively reach out to all areas throughout delaware. it just depends on who researches montessori/has experience with it, and who thinks it is an important addition to the learning process. shown by the small number of montessori schools across the country, and the small classroom size within those schools, one can only surmise that is it not a hot topic among majority of families in delaware or beyond, regardleses of SES, ethnicity or neighborhood. we are ultimately creatures of comfort, and stick to the path most traveled. a school like this, or any other magnet, charter, votech, etc has enrollment because of interest and the desire to trek the brambly, gravel path. please see the good nature of such schools. i know it doesn’t sell like trash-talking does, but in a society deprived of an identity, the journey to recreating one for delaware schools could stand to be a lot less hotheaded. thank you.

John Young said:

No idea who Jenn is, but maybe she should join that sorry CSAC team which appears to olnly authorize losing propositions in DE Charterland. Bet it would be a great fit for a truly dysfunctional organization.

Natalie Ganc said:

I think that a stipulation should be put on all of these charter schools claiming that their school panders to their geographical radius: They should have to go pound-the-pavement (pamphlet in hand) to educate their neighbors to inform them of all of the benefits their child will receive if they choose to enroll. I say this, because I am quite certain that the folks living in the high-poverty areas have no idea what some charter schools are all about.

And from the official public comment section on the DOE website:

 

The Marcia Brady Charter Leader & Her Swell School

The first time I experienced the Marcia Brady of Delaware was at the House Education Committee meeting on House Bill 50 last spring.  She spoke in opposition to the bill to the ire of many parents and teachers across Delaware.  Courtney Fox is the Head of School at First State Montessori Academy.  As the below Charter School Accountability Committee report shows, this school can do no wrong.  Marcia Brady, the oldest sister on the Brady Bunch, could also do no wrong.  This caused her younger sisters to envy and disdain her.  Such is the way of Delaware education at times.  There is always a bright star in the crowd.  And the comments from Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network really wanted to make me heave!  But is all it appears to be at the groovy school?  Below is CSAC’s initial report, followed by a very interesting letter from a company I’ve written about before on here, and finally the public comments received for this modification request to increase their enrollment and to take over the Del Met building.  The last public comment raises some serious eyebrows, including my own…