Under The Radar, Another Delaware Charter May Go Down Tonight

All the media attention has been on Delaware Met, but another charter school may face the charter revocation knife in less than twelve hours!  The Delaware Department of Education is the charter school authorizer for most of the charters in the state, but three of them fall under the watch of the Red Clay Consolidated School District: Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware Military Academy and Delaware College Prep.  The last of those is on formal review, and the odds are in favor of Delaware College Prep getting their charter revoked at the Red Clay board meeting tonight.

If this happens, and Delaware Met goes down at the State Board of Education meeting tomorrow, that will be five charter schools shut down in the past few years: Pencader Business School, Moyer, Reach Academy for Girls, Delaware College Prep and Delaware Met.  For a state with anywhere from 22-25 charters (it is getting hard to keep track with the openings and closings), this is an abysmal track record.  Delaware doesn’t have the charter chains like many other states.  Most of them are “mom and pop” charters.  Most of these are serving children with needs greater than other charters.

The inner-city charter experiments are clearly not working.  Sure, folks can say East Side is a resounding success, but when you look at their Smarter Balanced results, they weren’t much better than their traditional school district peers.  I am not saying I agree with using standardized test scores as a measure of success or failure, but for the sake of argument, their perceived “growth” blew up with their SBAC scores.  The problem is also the charters who do “perform” well.  This is another illusion cast upon our state because of their enrollment practices.  We all know who those players are but nothing ever changes.  So we continue this game of Russian Roulette with our Wilmington students.  We are rolling the dice with them and the results are horrible.

And yet, the charters with some of the most egregious financial abuses in our state stay open.  Academy of Dover and Family Foundations Academy collectively wasted over $300,000 in taxpayer funds for personal use.  Their schools are still open.  Their former leaders are not in prison for outright theft.  But we will bounce students around Wilmington through choice and charter openings and closings without any regard to the amount of instability this inflicts on our districts, our communities, and most of all, the students.

Kendall Massett And I Agree On Something!!!! Del Met & Other Charter News

Just kidding Kendall!  But seriously, the more I am hearing about this Delaware Met meeting, the more I can’t wait to see the transcript!  Meanwhile, both Avi with Newsworks and Matt Albright with the News Journal covered this big news today as well.  One clarification which I am now hearing about.  The school did not have most of their population as Moyer students.  There were about ten of them I am now hearing.  According to Avi’s article, if Godowsky and the State Board shut it down, the students will have the choice to go back to their district feeder schools or other charters.  But back to Kendall, from Avi’s article:

School safety also emerged as a major theme. Wilmington police have visited Delaware Met 24 times since the school year began and made nine arrests, according to the testimony of state officials at Tuesday’s meeting. Last month, in response to a CSAC request for information, school officials said local police had only visited Delaware Met six times.

That discrepency irked Kendall Massett, executive director of the Delaware Charter School Network and a non-voting member of CSAC.

“It’s not the number of times the police came, it’s that they need to be honest about it,” Massett said.

Massett said she “absolutely support[ed]” the committee’s recommendation to shutter Delaware Met.

I supported this recommendation before it was even made!  One important thing to take note of is the timing.  The way charter school funding works, they get their next big chunk of funding in February.  By shutting the school down in January, this would prevent them from getting those funds and squandering them if they knew the school was going to shut down at the end of the year. Even the DOE issued a press release on this:

The Delaware Department of Education’s Charter School Accountability Committee today recommended the revocation of Delaware MET’s charter in January because of academic, operational, governance and financial problems at the Wilmington school.

A public hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Carvel State Office Building at the corner of 9th and French streets in Wilmington. Public comment will be accepted through December 11. After reviewing the full record, Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky will present his decision regarding the school’s future to the State Board of Education for its assent at the board’s December 17 meeting.

Issues considered by the committee include:

Educational program, specifically:

o    Fidelity to the school’s approved curriculum and instructional program, including the Big Picture Learning instructional model, use of technology, participation in various coalitions, and implementation status of project-based learning. Lessons plans submitted to CSAC also were found to be out of alignment with the state’s academic standards.

o    Special education services, including the results of a recent monitoring visit by the Department of Education’s Exceptional Children Resources staff that found the school was out of compliance with all 59 of its students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).

School culture, specifically safety and discipline concerns
Governing board and leadership capacity, specifically lack of compliance with open meeting laws
Financial viability, specifically due both to decreased student enrollment and the school’s budget not reflecting full compliance with programmatic requirements, including special education

Delaware MET, which opened this fall, was placed on formal review by the State Board of Education on October 15.

Should Secretary Godowsky and the State Board follow the committee’s recommendation to revoke the charter, the school would close on January 22, the end of the second marking period. The state would assist the school’s 210 students and their families in moving to other schools for the rest of the academic year. The children may return to the district schools in their home feeder patterns or choice into another district or charter school that is accepting students. The receiving schools would receive prorated funding for the returning students.

As they look toward next year, families also may fill out the state’s School Choice application for another district or charter school for 2016-17. The application deadline is January 13, 2016.

I feel bad for these kids.  I truly do.  It is one thing to have a school not service you and give you a proper education.  Delaware Met is another thing altogether!  I really hope the State Board of Education and Godowsky do the right thing here.  Perhaps the State Board won’t be so quick to approve so many charter schools all at once and will really look at the wisdom of that decision.  Perhaps it is time to take a fresh new look at the whole charter school application process.  Because it isn’t just Delaware Met.  Yes, the spotlight is on them, and they made the most unwise decisions.  But other new charters are experiencing severe growing pains.  First State Military Academy is now going on their third special education coordinator.  I’m not sure if they made their IEP compliance deadline as a new school, but I don’t like what I’m hearing in terms of the school’s issues with understanding the IEP process and what they feel are appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities.

One thing that will become a huge problem in the future for all schools is the concept of personalized learning.  If you have a personalized learning program at your school, the IEP is covered under a federal program called IDEA.  For those who may not know this, the decisions of an IEP team, covered by federal law, trumps the online learning system.  As an example, if a student is required to do 15 out of 20 math problems based on their IEP, than the school needs to honor that.  You can’t say the computer score is right and you have to go by that.  Unfortunately, the state standardized assessment is another issue.  But for unit tests and quizzes, and even homework done on the computer, these schools need to contact these companies like Schoology and learn how THEIR system can accommodate students with IEPs, not the other way around.

As for Delaware Met, they had plenty of time to get it right and it comes down to very bad choices.  I’m sure they knew their head of school was pregnant when she got the job last March.  Knowing that, why would you not plan for the eventual maternity leave?  Sorry, I’m just getting really tired of hearing that excuse.  I have to wonder how much training and professional development teachers really got at this school.  Positive Outcomes has the same Big Picture Learning program, and they haven’t had the issues Delaware Met is experiencing.  And they are a school with about 60% of their population having IEPs.  I’m sure the school will play the blame game on the districts and other charters for failing to send them information about the students.  But given the issues with the staff and Innovative Schools, I have to wonder how much effort was put into actually requesting those records.  We can’t assume everything coming from the school is the Gospel truth.  I caught Innovative Schools in at least three lies at their first Charter School Accountability Committee meeting.

At the end of the day, it is about doing the right thing, and Delaware Met failed.  I have no doubt the intention was there with many of their board members, but this needs to be a lesson learned for those wanting to start a school without the experience to back it up.  First State Military Academy and many other schools are using models that are strongly suggested by Innovative Schools.  Perhaps it is past time Innovative Schools has a state investigation and audit to see how useful the services they are offering Delaware charters truly are and how much is wasteful.

Breaking News on Delaware Met: Charter Revocation Recommendation By End Of Next Marking Period

The Delaware Met had their final formal review meeting with the Charter School Accountability Committee this morning.  The group’s final recommendation: charter revocation by the end of the next marking period! Which would bring this school to a close by January 22nd.  Of course, the Delaware State Board of Education has to also vote on this, which they will at their meeting on 12/17.  Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the meeting, but I will report details once I receive them.

The group said the Delaware Met violated the terms of their charter.  The school opened in August after a one-year delay approved by the DOE.  Charter closures are serious business.  I feel bad for all the students and parents who made a choice to go to this school.  It looks like they will need to start searching again.  I didn’t wish for this school to close.  I really hope any school can do the right thing for their students.  In this case, I don’t think the school had the capability and the means to effectively run this school.

A great deal of the student population at Delaware Met came from Moyer, which also had its charter revoked during the last school year.  As well, the school has over a quarter of their population as special education students with IEPs.

The Truth Is Out There With Delaware Met: Public Hearing Transcript Sheds Some Light

The Delaware Met had their public hearing for their formal review on 11/16/15.  Yesterday, the Delaware Department of Education released the transcript.  One thing is for sure: the words “blogs”, “blogger”, or “bloggers” were mentioned 8 times in the transcript.  I was glad to see two members of the Delaware State Board of Education attended this event.  Instead of writing about the public hearing, I’m going to let the people speak.

I feel like three months of my son’s education has been wasted because he hasn’t done much work, not many projects

I’ve tried to contact teachers with no response

…when we hear some of the horror stories that are going on with these kids, a lot of times, schoolwork might be the last thing on their mind, because a sibling was just killed three months ago, or they’re dealing with being displaced, you know, homeless.

For whatever reason, they opened the doors up and let a lot of kids in that probably didn’t fit the model and didn’t really understand what the model was.

Whatever bugs you all didn’t iron out first, go back to the drawing board, fix it.  As they say, you got a hole, plug it.

But we don’t get the connection from the people who are in charge, the charter school or whoever is in charge of the charter school, and the parents, there’s no connection.

…the biggest question is who is this management organization, Innovative Schools, and why does it seem that they have been an impediment to this process?  We know that starting something new often is a rocky start, but it seems like the people who are supposed to know about education in this case don’t know anything about education.

It is disturbing that some of the things that should have been in place from the first day still aren’t in place, and we’re still struggling to try to get some open communication.  I think it’s interesting that a lot of parents are here, but I don’t see too many of the administrators.

So I think we need to look into it further versus basing it upon opinions of bloggers and individuals who have not been to the school to visit firsthand to see exactly what’s going on versus reading the emails that are being sent.

I don’t know who blogs.  It has to be somebody in the school.  It has to be somebody in the schools that’s giving out certain information that, you know, that I know some of the students is not giving out, I’m thinking it’s probably one of the teachers that don’t like and are trying to sabotage the whole school.

And whoever the blogger is, they need to mind their own business.  We already know there’s an issue.

Do you all understand how bad that sounds to a kid when they go to school, the teacher says we don’t have to learn because they’re closing the school next year.

Help us out.  Give the school some funding.  You all keep talking about you don’t have money, or whoever, they don’t have money to put this in, put that in.

When you open something up, if you put a different animals in one cage, you’re going to have problems until you get somebody in there that knows how to train everybody.

And again, the story writers, the bloggers, whoever is doing this, saying what they want to say to make it, solidify what you’re trying to do, if you’re trying to close the school down, I mean, of course.

What kind of school around here has a mentoring program?

And I went to Mr. A.J. and he told me that, you know, I can guarantee you the school is not going to shut down and everything like that.

I got at least three trays in one day for lunch, and all the meat was bleeding, but I couldn’t get nothing brown bag.  I don’t understand.  These teachers going out, buying McDonald’s and all that, but we can’t do that because of other stuff.

And we have some teachers that don’t even come to school, and I don’t even know how my report card going to look.  I’m not a bad kid.  I know my report card going to look okay in other schools, but this school, I don’t know.

Okay, what is up with the “blame the blogger” game for a school going on formal review?  Trust me, the Delaware Department of Education is not going to put a school on formal review because of information I write about.  By the time I’m writing stuff, they most likely already know a great deal of the information.  The things I’ve heard coming from this brand new school, that had two years to work out all the kinks, disturb me on many levels.  This is a school that stated their budget for food is going to be over-budget.  If they aren’t cooking the meat correctly and students keep going back for non-carcinogenic food that is actually cooked all the way through, I can see why that would be.  If teachers aren’t showing up or they don’t know how to teach the curriculum, that is troubling.  What kind of school lets other students show up to the school without any type of security system to prevent that?  This school has already received plenty of funding, from the state and from the Longwood Foundation.  Throwing more money at it isn’t going to solve anything.  They will find some way to squander those funds.  Plenty of schools have mentoring programs, and A.J. English knows that.  I am always suspicious of anyone that may have a financial motive to keep a school open.  The school may know about the issues, but parents and the public may not.  That is why I blog.  Do you want to know the words I was looking for the most in this transcript and I didn’t see mentioned anywhere? Special Education, IEP, and disability.  How can you defend a school and not even talk about their biggest problem?  Innovative Schools is in way over their head across the entire state.  Other new charter schools that relied on them are having issues as well.  I don’t want any school to shut down unless it is bad for students in the short-term and the long-term.  I believe Delaware Met fits in both of those categories.

I know some people think I just write whatever I want and call it a day.  That is not the case.  There are things I could write about this school but haven’t yet.  The assumption that I haven’t been in the school must mean I don’t know anything about it.  Wrong.  I know plenty.  I went to their first Charter School Accountability Committee meeting.  I heard the many questions Delaware Met and Innovative Schools couldn’t answer.  These are key and essential questions that need to be answered AND fixed, or they should close.  But let’s get one thing straight, unless the school is posing an immediate health risk or students are in danger, the DOE and State Board of Education don’t just shut a school down.  They go through the process, and the likely options are: probation, revocation of their charter at the end of the year, or they rule the school is doing just fine.  I’ve taken other steps as well in light of things I’ve heard about this school.  It is obvious Delaware Met has sent information out saying “Don’t believe the blogger.”  That is their prerogative.  I just ask folks to keep an open mind and ask the questions.

To read the entire transcript, please read below.

Delaware Met Paid $380,000 To Innovative Schools Over Two Years…For What?

Now that the Delaware Met is closing down a month after it opened them, many in Delaware are asking “what the hell happened?”  Don’t worry, I’m in that same group.  In all my time doing this, I never got a lead that turned into something solid within hours, much less a lead that announced the closure of a charter school that no  one seemed to be any the wiser about their difficulties.  But my big question surrounds their management organization: Innovative Schools.  What did Innovative Schools actually do that warranted them receiving $380,000 since July of 2013?  And why were there employees being paid since July 2013 as well when the school didn’t even open until two years later?

From July 2013 until March 2014, we see salaries going out twice a month ranging from $3,245.19 to $4,110.59 (only once for this one, ironically, 12 days before Christmas).  Then in March, it bumps up to around $5,400 a month, but then back down to $2,700 in June.  Who was getting paid these funds?  And for what?  Meanwhile, Innovative Schools had over $380,000.00 in 26 months on their tab.  That’s some serious coin for a charter that hadn’t even opened yet for the bulk of these funds!  The Delaware Met website, which hasn’t had any board minutes posted (and their only one) since October of 2014, shows 15 board members.  And under the section entitled “School Leader’s Blog”, someone named Tricia talks about how she accepted the position of Head of School in May, 2015.  And good luck finding any staff, they don’t exist on the website.  Now the DOE website shows the Head of School to be Patricia Hunter Crafton, so I have to assume that would be “Tricia”.  But when I emailed the DOE and The Delaware Met for information yesterday, I received an out of office email for Crafton indicating she was out on maternity leave until November.  Nash Childs is listed as the President of their Board, but no relation to Great Oaks Charter School leader Kia Childs.

So who was the Innovative Schools lead for The Delaware Met?  Innovative Schools website lists Jemuel Anderson as the Operations Manager for The Delaware Met.  Now some bell is going off telling me I’ve heard this name before…where…where…where…and then the bell rings!  He was one of the plaintiffs when Moyer tried suing the State of Delaware over Moyer’s closure.  But Jemuel Anderson’s charter school history goes back beyond even Moyer.  He was the topic of many comments over on Kilroy’s a few years ago with the “is he” or “isn’t he” argument going back and forth over whether he was qualified to be a teacher rep on the board based on his lack of certified credentials on DEEDs (the place to look if teachers are certified or not in Delaware).  To go from either a one-on-one para (with the same student) for two years at Pencader to an Operations Manager of The Delaware Met for Innovative Schools seems like a pretty good career jump!  Astronomical I would say!

I’m just going to take a stab in the dark here and ask the obvious.  Could there maybe be some financial issues going on with this school as well?  In which case, the date of their official closure will be very interesting to watch.  If it is after September 30th, what guarantee does the State of Delaware have to ask for that money back?  If it’s already out there that the school is closing, what would happen if every single student left before September 30th?  Would they get no funding which would then force them into bankruptcy?  And it seems like it doesn’t matter if Innovative Schools cut ties with the school.  You know they have to be going “Ka-ching! We got $380,000.00 from a school that was only open a month!  Thank you Delaware taxpayers!”

Meanwhile, more Delaware students that are bounced around from Delaware charter to charter to charter are the true victims in all of this.  A generation of lost charter school students lost in the even greater sea of lost Wilmington children who are lost in the vast ocean called proficiency gaps.

Holy Freire Batman! Prestige Academy & Moyer Had Highest Charter Suspension Rates, Over 60% of Students!!!!

With an astonishing 653 suspensions, Prestige Academy had the highest suspension rate out of any Delaware charter school.  176 out of the school’s 287 enrolled students for the 2013-2014 school year were suspended, for a 61.3% rating.  That means over 3/5ths of the school was suspended at one point in time during this school year.  That is insanely high!

Moyer came in second, with a 60.97% suspension rate, 138 out of 227 students, with a total of 338 suspensions.  The Delaware Department of Education ordered Moyer to close at the end of the 2014-2015 school year, despite a lawsuit by the City of Wilmington that was dismissed.

This makes the new Freire charter coming to town look like a mere detention!  I’m sorry, if you are suspending that many kids at a charter school, maybe the problem isn’t the kids!  Sounds like zero tolerance at Prestige and Moyer.  Freire is the new charter opening up in the 2015-2016 year that will actually expel kids for bad behavior right off the bat.  I’m sure a lot of kids will want to go to that school!

Breaking News: City Of Wilmington Suing Delaware DOE Over Moyer Closure

According to an article released within the past 15 minutes by Delaware News Journal, the City of Wilmington is suing the Delaware DOE over the closure of Moyer Charter School.

http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/education/2014/11/25/city-wilmington-sues-keep-moyer-open/70099354/?sf34058431=1

The announcement to close Moyer came at a special Delaware State Board of Education meeting on October 9th, when Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy told the board he recommended closing the school.  At the end of this school year, Moyer will be no more.

Matthew Albright, the News Journal reporter, wrote “Department of Education officials would not comment because they had not been served the lawsuit Tuesday afternoon, spokeswoman Alison May said.”

This recommendation came over a month after the Priority Schools initiative was announced.  Where is the City of Wilmington with that?  They will sue to keep a charter school open that had over 60 incorrect Individualized Education Plans for students with disabilities and that had been out of compliance on several issues for many years, but they won’t sue the DOE over the priority schools and Gateway?  Be consistent City Of Wilmington!

Other highlights from the article:

“Moyer had been out of compliance with its charter for more than a year before the state’s decision. Before that, a previous incarnation of the school was closed in 2010 for poor performance, but state and Wilmington officials backed the opening of a new school on the same site with a similar name.”

Moyer Charter School Shut Down! To Close End of School Year! 67 Out of 68 IEPs Non-Compliant In Findings! @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog @dianeravitch #netde #eduDE

 

Secretary of Education Mark Murphy made his ruling against the Moyer charter school in Wilmington, DE.  They will be closed by the state by the end of the current school year.  I don’t usually agree with Murphy on much, and this might be the first, but this school had to close in my opinion.

From a special education perspective alone, this is a school that was deeply troubled.  From the final meeting minutes with the Charter School Accountability Committee:

during the January 2014 on-site review of records, 67 out of 68 IEPs were found to be noncompliant in one or more regulatory areas, including evaluation, IEP development, meeting participants, and secondary transition. Ms. Mazza stated that, upon review of those same records in May of 2014, 29 remained noncompliant in one or more regulatory areas.

Ms. Mazza also noted that, with regards to the provision of special education services, Moyer’s response stated that teachers were contracted in January. She clarified that the Compliance Agreement between Moyer and the Department clearly states that concerns regarding special education and procedural safeguards were identified during the January 2014 monitoring process. In addition, during the June 11th meeting, documentation was provided regarding the employment of special education staff, which evidenced that special education units earned were not utilized in their entirety.

Ms. Mazza further noted that it was mentioned in Moyer’s response that the concerns that were identified during the January monitoring were isolated to this year and that there haven’t been concerns in the past. She clarified that, in the fall of 2012, an on-site record review was conducted by the Department and, in December 2012, Moyer received a letter identifying noncompliance in 21 regulatory areas, including IEP development, LRE, secondary transition, and IEP meeting participants. She stated that, based upon those results, a corrective action plan was developed, which described the strategies and steps that Moyer would take to ensure compliance with special education regulations, including correction of individual student noncompliance, procedural development, and a system of internal controls.

Ms. Mazza stated that she wanted to make clear that, while the Department appreciates the enthusiasm of the staff and all that the staff is doing, the Department entered into the Compliance Agreement with Moyer because the areas that the Department identified during monitoring resulted in violations of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). She stated that, while there was mention that some of the records that remained out of compliance had one area, if one area is out of compliance, the whole IEP is out of compliance.

I’m sorry, but 67 out of 68 IEPs being out of compliance is reason enough for this school to be shut down.  And this is over a year after they had already been out of compliance with IEPs!  Good riddance I say.

To read about every reason why there were shut down, read the following DOE link: http://www.doe.k12.de.us/infosuites/schools/charterschools/FormalReview201415/CSAC_Final_Minutes.pdf

To read more about Murphy’s decision, read here: http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/education/2014/10/09/moyer-close-end-school-year/16988379/