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

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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.

Governor Carney Brings Family Services Cabinet Council Back To Delaware

On Tuesday, Delaware Governor John Carney signed Executive Order #5.  This order reestablishes the Family Services Cabinet Council.  From the press release:

Governor Carney Reestablishes the Family Services Cabinet Council

Date Posted: Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney signed Executive Order Five on Tuesday, reestablishing the Family Services Cabinet Council to help coordinate public and private services for Delaware families.

Delaware families continue to face significant challenges – including the high cost of child care; violence and poverty in their neighborhoods; the impact of caring for an aging family member; and the challenges of navigating an economy in transition. The Family Services Cabinet Council will be charged with coordinating public and private services that are often fragmented, and proposing changes to current programs to make the delivery of state services more effective.

Governor Carney will serve as chair of the Council.

Reestablishment of the Council, which was first established under Governor Tom Carper, was an action called for by Governor Carney’s Transition Team in their Action Plan for Delaware. The Council also will work closely with the Government Efficiency and Accountability Review Board (GEAR), which Governor Carney created this month to identify cost savings and efficiencies in state government, and to more effectively operate state programs and services.

“Our challenge is to determine whether the programs and services we offer are effective in moving families out of poverty, improving our system of education and creating opportunities for all Delaware families to succeed,” said Governor Carney. “That requires all of us – government agencies, nonprofits and private business – to work together. That also requires that we measure our progress. The reestablishment of the Family Services Cabinet Council will help us do just that, and make a meaningful difference in the lives of Delaware families.”

The Council will be tasked with implementing innovative tools and strategies for addressing a series of specific issues, including: breaking the school-to-prison pipeline; improving access to early childhood education; increasing the availability of affordable housing; improving access to substance abuse treatment; reducing recidivism in Delaware’s correctional system; expanding job training opportunities; and reducing violence in Delaware’s neighborhoods.

The Council will include eight members of Governor Carney’s Cabinet – the Secretary of the Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families; the Secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services; the Secretary of the Department of Education; the Secretary of the Department of Labor; the Secretary of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security; the Director of the Delaware State Housing Authority; the Director of the Office of Management and Budget; and the Commissioner of the Department of Correction.

“It is our duty to ensure that our children and our families have the necessary tools to be healthy, prosperous, and safe,” said Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long. “The reestablishment of this Council will break down silos in state government and allow for a more collaborative and coordinated approach to address some of the most critical issues we face, so that every Delawarean has a fair shot.”

 

Santa And John

santaclaus

Once upon a holiday season, in the land of Delaware, there lived a man who would become Governor.  He was promised the throne eight years ago, but another man took his seat.  In this land, the people chose their Governor  every four years.  The man who would be Governor finally won the seat and 58.34% of the people rejoiced.  As he sat in his car one day after returning from his job in D.C., he looked out the window.  He saw the sun setting in the distance.

John was anxious to get things going in Delaware.  He had to officially wait until January 17th, 2017.  “Only 47 days,” John said to himself.  He had been so busy for so long.  Things wouldn’t slow down for him in the next four years, and hopefully the four after that.  His day was filled with phone calls, texts, and emails.  Everyone wanted a piece of Delaware.  He knew not everyone could get a piece.  He called his wife from the driveway and told her he was going to go for a walk to clear his head.  Always supportive, she knew John needed this and told him to take all the time he needed.  John drove to the nearby park.  As he walked out of his car, he put on his hat.  It was rare he could get away from his security detail but at the same time he didn’t want to be bothered.  John walked down the trail…

Meanwhile, 3,529.75 miles away, the jolly one was settling into his favorite chair.  The elves were busy preparing for the big day.  Santa was happy he had an extra day to prepare this year.  As a tradition, during these leap years, he would pick one day off each leap year to do whatever he wanted.  Mrs. Claus always forgot about it, but Santa didn’t.  Today was his day off!  Santa picked up his laptop and on his favorites bar was the website he enjoyed going to the most: Exceptional Delaware.  Ever since Santa learned about Common Core and opt out, he found himself checking back in to see what was happening with the children of Delaware and the rest of the country.  Santa was not happy when he found out what happened a few weeks after Christmas earlier this year.  The people of Delaware wanted the lawmakers to override Governor Jack’s veto of the opt out bill, but it got hung up in some silly rule business.  He knew exactly which of those lawmakers would be getting coal this year, led by their Speaker and the leaders below him.  Santa heard there was a new Governor in Delaware so he decided he would pay him a visit.  While he didn’t usually venture so far south during the busy month, it was his day off and he could do whatever he wanted.  At least the things Mrs. Claus wouldn’t have cause to file for divorce over.

As hard as he tried, John couldn’t stop thinking about his plans.  He didn’t count on the new President actually winning the election.  All his plans were contingent on the Hill winning.  But the Tower Man won and he had to plan around it.  The Tower Man was picking people who John couldn’t picture running things down in D.C.  His office was frantic over the mess.  John had to strategize very carefully how he moved forward with everything.  Not only did the Tower Man win, but the two bodies of Congress won a majority in the election as well.  John’s Delaware was still blue, but a shocking election there threatened to turn the Delaware Senate red too.  The state he was to lead had some peculiar problems in it and at the top of that list was the economy and education.  Governor Jack treated the two as if they were symbiotic with each other and made some poor choices along the way.  John knew if he was going to improve both he would have to find a way to draw everyone in.  It was a difficult maze and John knew he wouldn’t please everyone.  Governor Jack chose a particular route but John knew if he did the same it would not be good.

Santa knew John’s mind was heavy.  As his sleigh crossed the border between Pennsylvania and Delaware, Santa could feel the weight on John’s shoulders.  Leadership always carries a heavy burden.  Santa knew that better than anyone.  Santa knew John ever since he was a little boy.  He always knew John would become a leader.  John didn’t have the same political sharpness so many politicians had but this also made him more relatable to the people.  He watched John’s humble beginnings in the town of Claymont.  Carney was one of those tough kids who excelled in football which helped him out at St. Mark’s High School and then Dartmouth College.  Santa remembers John’s awards.  As John was teaching freshmen football at the University of Delaware, he was also studying public administration.  From there, John began his political career working for the county he lived in and then for Governor Tom.  From there, John’s political ladder kept getting bigger and bigger.  He became the Lieutenant Governor for eight years and decided to run for Governor.  But the future “education” Governor Jack beat him in a close race.  Others told Jack to wait his turn, it was John’s turn, but Jack ignored them.  A couple of years later, John ran for Congress and won.  For six years, having to run every two years for a total of three Congressional terms, John worked in D.C. and learned how the game of politics really works.  But he never gave up on getting back to Delaware to win as Governor.  After Governor Jack was expected to end his tenure, many thought Vice-President Joe’s son Beau would run, but tragically Beau passed away after a long illness.  It was then that John decided he would run but wished it had been under better circumstances.

John walked down the path.  There was a crisp wind in the air but the moon was bright.  He used to walk down this path many times.  It hadn’t changed much over time and he remembered it like the back of his hand.  John tripped on a branch and fell to the ground.  As he looked up, he saw a bright light in the sky above him.  A voice cried out “John, we need to talk.”  John reached for his phone but he had left it in the car.  He thought to himself, “This is it, all alone in the woods with no one to help.”  He began to picture the headline in the News Journal the next day.  “Who are you?” John asked.  “Someone you haven’t thought about in a long time John.”  Santa gracefully landed the sleigh on the path in front of John.  His lights were still on so John couldn’t tell who it was.  “I do have security watching me right now.  They are watching you right now.  So I wouldn’t try anything  They will find you if anything happens to me.”  “No they won’t,” Santa said.  “Remember you let all of them have the night off and you so conveniently told each one there was coverage?”  John wondered how this guy would know that.  “It’s me, John.  Santa.”

John couldn’t believe his eyes.  As a child, he always believed.  But as children grew older, that magic disappeared.  John saw Santa everywhere this time of year.  He began seeing him in stores as early as October.  But it wasn’t the same as the man who just walked off a sleigh that came down in the middle of the woods.  John took that early childhood magic for granted, as every adult does.  John wondered what in the world Santa Claus wanted with him.  Did he visit all the new leaders?  “John,” Santa said, “We have to talk about the kids.  Come with me.”  John felt the world spin beneath him.  Santa’s words captured him.  They weren’t words demanding John obey him, but those of comfort and a calm John hadn’t felt for a long time.  John looked at his watch.  It was 6:30pm.

Santa and John got in the sleigh.  The reindeer, who John hadn’t noticed before, began running down the path.  John felt the sleigh lift up into the December night.  “John, did you read my letter last year?” Santa asked.  John read letters every day.  There were some days he couldn’t remember what he had for breakfast he was so busy.  John shook his head.  “Did you send it to me?” John asked.  He knew he probably had not seen it unless it was an issue of critical importance.  He was sure if one of his staffers opened it and saw a letter from Santa Claus it would go in the circular bin next to their desk.  “No, I let Exceptional Delaware put it up.  I thought everyone in Delaware reads it.”  That was a name John was familiar with the past six months.  The blogger.  “You mean the crazy education blogger from DoverThat guy wants to meet with me but I don’t know…” Santa abruptly interrupted John  “Watch yourself,” Santa warned.  “I have the utmost respect for the blogger.  He helped me out last year and he knows what he is talking about.”  John responded to Santa.  “But he tends to tick off a lot of people.  People I’m going to have to work with.  I was warned to stay away from him.”  Santa’s eyes widened.  “Oh really?  Would that have been Senator So-coal-A,” Santa carefully empathized.  “And all those other adults who don’t have the first clue about what education really is?  Let me tell you something John.  You will be a leader of Delaware.  Any state has a foundation from which it must build on.  That foundation is the kids.  Not the adults, and especially not the adults who try to make money and get power from kidsThere are those out there who will pretend to speak the truth.  You surround yourself with them.  But there are those who speak uncomfortable truths that people don’t always want to hear.  But they do so out of an innate need for change, in the hopes someone with the ability to hear will actually listen.”

John was familiar with what was going on in education.  He was told of the long-range plans and how education would be reformed so all kids can succeed.  The children would be trained to become the workforce of tomorrow.  As he began his campaign, he knew many people in Delaware were hurting.  When he ran for Governor the first time, the economy of the whole country was collapsing.  Even though Delaware recovered from this, not all of the citizens did.  Some never got the jobs back that made them more money.  The cities were becoming too violent again.  Drug use was up and children were getting shot in the street.  But still, Delaware did the one thing it knows how to do best- spend money.  John knew all that money wasn’t going to the right places.  He also knew that when he became the leader he would have to fix a lot of these problems.  Many of his advisors told him that education was going to fix all these problems.  Not now, but down the road.  But if he didn’t help follow the same paths Governor Jack made, nothing would ever get fixed.  This was happening all over the country.  There were critics, like the damn blogger, but they were just a whisper in the wind.  They didn’t see the big picture and how this was for the good of the state and the country.

Santa, where are we going?” John asked.  “To see the children John.”

Uhm, Santa.  We are flying into downtown Wilmington.  No offense sir, but I can’t be seen riding around in a sleigh with someone people don’t believe in along with eight reindeer.”  Santa pulled out a pouch from his pocket.  “Thanks for reminding me John, I almost forgot.”  Santa took out a handful of dust and blew it all around him and John.  “They won’t see us now.”  Santa parked the sleigh on top of the Community Education Building.  The duo went down through the building and to the streets below.  They walked over to the playground next to the building.

In a dark corner, an African-American boy was reading with a flashlight.  The boy was shivering as he turned a page.  “Why is this boy out here Santa?  Why doesn’t he go home?”  Santa sighed.  “This is his home John.  He lives on the streets.  During the really cold months he goes to a shelter with his aunt.  She is at work right now.”  John saw a grocery cart a few feet away from the boy.  Covering it was a blue tarp.  John could see some clothes in there and a few boxes.  As John looked away for a moment in horror, he saw a hypodermic needle on the ground.  The boy was reading a worn-out copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with a flashlight between his yellow teeth.  He saw the boy lift a crumpled up bag out of his coat pocket.  The boy began eating the few crumbs left in the bag of potato chips.  Santa told John about how his father went to prison a few years ago.  He belonged to one of the gangs.  During a shoot-out in front of their apartment building, a bullet missed hitting the boy but instead lodged itself in his mother’s brain.  He told John this is the first thing the boy sees when he wakes up in the morning and the last thing he sees at night.  “Come on John, we have more stops to make tonight.”  John walked to the sleigh but kept looking back at the boy.

Santa and John flew once more into the night.  It was very quiet between them.  They landed in a very wealthy neighborhood with mansions all around them.  John wasn’t sure if he had been on this street when he was campaigning.  Many houses were decked out in Christmas lights and he even saw Santas made up in lights.  “This is never what Christmas was supposed to be John,” as Santa looked down at his belly.  They got out of the sleigh and went into one of the houses.  A girl was on her computer playing the latest version of Minecraft.  Her mom asked her if she finished her homework.  “I sure did,” the girl said.  “You can check it on Schoology.”  “Did you finish all the stuff on iReady?” the mother asked.  “Yes Mom,” as the girl rolled her eyes.  She had just finished eating the steak and shrimp but she was still hungry.  “Can you turn the heat down Mom?” she yelled.  As her hand grabbed the ice cream bowl, Santa and John left.  As Sarah pulled the spoon to her mouth, she wondered if she had to be at the school in her cheerleader’s outfit by 9am tomorrow or 9:15.

They flew down to Georgetown.  John was last there on Return Day in November.  All the candidates who run for office, whether they win or not, participate in this event to “bury the hatchet”.  But they flew away from the town to a trailer park.  Inside, a Hispanic girl was kicking a ball around with her little brother.  A man came into the room.  “Hicerion sus deberes?” the man asked.  “No podríamos papá. No sabíamos lo que significaban las palabras,” the boy answered.  The man watched as his children did what they do after school almost every day.  Kicking around the same ball.  “Sorry Santa, my Spanish is very rusty.  What did they say?” John asked.  “The father asked if his children did their homework.  They couldn’t because they can’t read the words.  They don’t know English very well.  They know enough for very basic things, but not enough to learn what they need to know.  Their mother is still at the chicken farm working her shift.  One of them always has to be with the kids. They aren’t here legally.  The father is afraid all the time that his kids will be taken from him and he and his wife will have to go back to their country.  He doesn’t know English at all.” 

John felt his mind stir as they flew north.  He was very troubled by what he saw.  When he was campaigning, he tended to see the best of Delaware.  In the daylight or early evening when many of his “Meet and Chews” with people were attended by those who had the means and the desire to see him.  When he went to schools, he could tell the kids were on their best behavior because “an important man” was coming to visit.  He didn’t see people in their homes or on the streets the way he did tonight.  He felt uncomfortable, like he was seeing a side of the world he heard about but didn’t see first-hand.  “Santa, I should really be getting back.  It’s getting late and my wife is probably worrying about me.”  Santa laughed so hard the sleigh shook. Look at your watch John.  What time is it?”  John looked at his watch in bewilderment.  It was still 6:30pm.  No time had passed since he first got in the sleigh with Santa back on the trail.  “Let me guess, another bit of your magic?”  Santa smiled at John as they flew into a middle-class neighborhood in Dover.

The odd couple went into the house.  Inside, a boy was crying on the couch.  His parents were arguing in the kitchen.  “What do you mean he was suspended again?” the father asked.  “I got a call from school.  They said he was acting out in class again and when the teacher told him to stop he ran out of the room.  When another teacher found him, he pushed her away.  The Principal came down the hall and yelled at him to come with him.  David yelled back at him and Dr. Smith called two teachers to help bring him to the office,” the mother explained.  “I didn’t get the call until two hours later.  By the time I got there he was so upset.”  “Did they give him any work to do when he was in there for two hours?” the boy’s father asked.  “I don’t know.  But this is not what his IEP says.  They aren’t supposed to drag him down the hall and yell at him.  He isn’t learning anything there.  He’s depressed all the time.  He can’t learn in a class with thirty kids.”  John knelt down in front of the boy.  He saw such pain and sadness in the boy’s eyes.  “This boy has no friends John.  The things you had growing up, kids to play with and throw a football around, running around in the woods, even going to the amusement park, David can’t do those things.”  Santa explained how David was labeled as high-functioning Autism.  He could do the work, but only under certain conditions.  If there was a lot of activity in the classroom, people talking, moving around, David couldn’t handle that.  His brain couldn’t filter out all the stimuli.  Some days it worked, but for David, it was an endless litany of suspensions and leaving school early.  “Special education John.  If you don’t know what is going on with a child, and everyone is different, how can we put all kids in the same box?” Santa asked him.

John could see what Santa was doing.  He understood that not every kid is the same.  But if they didn’t try to help all the kids nothing would change.  The two flew to the building where John was destined to spend many of his days in the next four years.  Legislative Hall.  Where all the laws in Delaware happened.  John didn’t think there would be any kids there at 6:30pm, and he was right.  Inside, a meeting was taking place.  John knew about half the people at the large table in the House Majority Caucus room.  There were some from the Department of Education, a couple from the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, the usual Delaware State Education Association contingent, some Superintendents, a few teachers, Delaware PTA, some of the disability advocates, the lady from the Delaware Charter Schools Network, four legislators, and a couple of State Board members.  He knew them.  A few people sat in the chairs outside of the table.  A woman from the Delaware DOE was giving a presentation on the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Delaware had to come up with a state plan so all students can succeed.  She was talking about the Delaware School Success Framework and the measurements they wanted included in their state accountability system.  It was all about proficiency and growth.  Which John knew was based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  All these adults, sitting there talking about kids and how they can make education better.  John knew a few of the people there had the best of intentions but this was what they do in Delaware.  They sit around a table and talk.  This was how things got done.  They even had a name for it, The Delaware Way.

You don’t get it!” John cried out.  “We can’t keep testing these kids.  They aren’t the same.  We can’t keep doing this.  Their lives mean so much more than these tests.”  Santa looked at John.  “They can’t hear you.  Even if they could, too many of them wouldn’t listen.  They think they know what is best.  They forget what it was like when they were kids.  Even that man over there.”  Santa pointed to a man from Wilmington.  “He kept fighting for the kids in Wilmington and how the teachers need to be better,” Santa explained.  “The man believed what he said but he didn’t realize how much these children don’t have outside of school.  The man didn’t understand that you can’t just wave a magic wand and make teachers better.  And the best teachers, they were the ones already in those classrooms in Wilmington.  They were the ones who came to school every day, knowing the problems these kids brought to the classroom.  The look of hunger in their eyes as they wore the same clothes for the third day in a row.  They dedicated their lives to helping these kids in the hardest classrooms in the state.  In return, they were shamed by many of the people in this room.  The little boy we saw on the playground tonight?  He goes to the poorest school in the state.  Most of the people in this room have never walked into his school.  They don’t understand what he needs.  That legislator over there?  She sponsored a bill so special education would get better in the state.  In their eyes, it did.  Students went from 21% proficiency on the ELA part of Smarter Balanced to 23%.  To them, that is growth.  The Superintendent over there?  She runs the district where the two kids from Georgetown go to school.  She has a lot of students who can’t speak or read English.  She hasn’t said one word tonight about how to help them.  See the man over there?  He runs a charter school in Newark.  They just settled on a lawsuit against the Christina School District.  In return they will get more money in the future.  Remember the girl in the mansion?  She goes to that charter school.  That money will be taken from the homeless boy’s school.  He will get less than he has today at school.  The man over there?  He sits on the board at the Rodel Foundation.  He sees opportunity.  He sees how the business leaders in the state can profit from all this.  He is hoping they will start talking about more career pathway programs in our high schools.  He knows that some will go to the coding school he sits on the board of.  He talks with other business leaders and the graduates of that program do internships at their companies.  Sometimes they get jobs.  While they are learning, these coding students are building the network of tomorrow.  They develop algorithms that will go into the education technology in all the schools.  All that data, all that blessed data.  They store it all.  They keep everything, these futurists and visionaries.  They have the money and influence to make sure what they want becomes policy and law.  It is the way the modern world works John.  Perhaps they know, and don’t care, that what they are setting up now will only make those children who struggle the most even further apart from any true opportunity to succeed.  And them, over there, they work for the Department of Education.  They are the middlemen between the schools and the business community.  They make sure the business community gets what they want in the schools.  They do this through regulations and conversations you will never hear about.  That woman there, she runs the accountability section of the Department.  Her job is to make sure all children in certain grades take the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  When she sees the results come in, she doesn’t see the faces of the children who took the test.  She sees numbers.  Results.  Scores.  Her job is to understand why all the children we saw tonight got a 1 on the test last Spring except for the girl in the mansion who got a 4.  She doesn’t see David’s disability.  Or the two siblings who can’t read the instructions for the test in English much less understand the context of a passage  in Spanish about the stock market.  She doesn’t know that the African-American boy in Wilmington has slept in 124 different beds in the past year alone and the other 241 nights were outside with blankets.  But she actually thinks they can close the achievement gaps and these children will grow into prosperity.  How does she know this?  It’s what her bosses tell her every single day.  She hears the lie so much she believes it.

John and Santa left the building.  As the two flew north, they talked about what John had to do.  What he needed to change.  They talked about the blogger and the parents, teachers, legislators, advocates, and citizens who thought like Santa did.  “Those are the ones you really need to talk to John.  I’m sure you have heard from many of the people who were in that meeting tonight.  If you haven’t, I have no doubt your advisors have.”  John knew this to be true.  “You need to understand the other side of the coin John, where the real world lives.  These aren’t pleasant realities you saw tonight.  For those fighting for the kids, even opting out of the test isn’t as easy as it once was.  They are fighting for these kids, their kids.  And their grandchildren.  They are fighting for their jobs.  They see beyond the results and the growth.  They see what needs to change but no one listens.  No one who can really make a difference.  Some do, but not enough to make the changes.  When they do speak, they are shunned by their peers.  Given less importance.  It isn’t right John.  What the people in that room wanted, it won’t change anything.  It will only cause more damage.  You can’t incorporate education.  These are children.  You need to change all this.”

John walked out of the sleigh.  He thanked Santa for showing him so much of the Delaware he didn’t see before.  The two shook hands.  “Santa, I don’t know if I can change all of this by myself.  You know if I try I will make enemies.  Those enemies won’t make my job any easier.”  Santa put his hand on John’s shoulder.  “That is what all leaders who understand what is right and just have to face.  Some succeed and some fail.  Some do it alone and some have support.  All I can say is this John-  remember what you saw tonight.  Every single time you make a decision.  Remember the children’s faces before you see the adults.  You know in your heart who is really in this for the kids and who isn’t.  When you hear that voice in your head, questioning what the true motives are, listen to that.  Let that be your shield against your enemies John.”  John hugged Santa.  “Merry Christmas Santa.”  “And to you as well Governor Carney.”  Santa walked toward his sleigh and turned around. “John, find those who speak the uncomfortable truths.”

John looked down at his watch.  It was 6:31pm.  Santa was gone.

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!

From Common Core To Competency-Based Education: The Slimy Tentacles Of Billionaire Foundations

Their reach is everywhere.  Foundations who say they represent the best interests of children.  Who want to fix education so all children can get a shot.  Why then, do so many of the children of these philanthropists, politicians, and corporate education reformers, attend private schools?  Ones without the invasive education technology and Common Core standards?  That alone should tell everyone they are not in it for the kids.  For them, it is about the profit.  Servant and master.  They feel we should bow down to their infinite wisdom and do as they say.  The reports from the Department of Labor showing increasing jobs don’t paint the same picture as the doom and gloom coming from the education “prophets”.  They talk about gaps between disadvantaged students and their peers while putting forth policy that enforces those gaps, whether it is from standardized tests, “IEPs for All”, the false importance of education technology, or the perception that traditional school district teachers are horrible.  They are the incubators of discrimination and segregation.  But they fail to understand how their actions contribute to the outside factors our schools should not have to deal with, such as trauma and poverty.  With all their vast wealth and power, they don’t spend their money helping to ease these issues.  They believe that it is okay to track students into career pathways starting at the first moment they are able to take a test.  They don’t care that very personal information goes out to 3rd parties that have no business seeing any information like this.  They wrote the Every Student Succeeds Act.  They are the ones pushing for more charter schools.  They have the US Dept. of Education in their back pocket along with the politicians and groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council and the National Governors’ Association.  They have many colleges and universities doing whatever they say.  But they are wrong.  What they are doing is the best for themselves, not the kids.

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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?

Exceptional Delaware Endorses Sean Matthews For State Rep. District 10

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Sean Matthews is awesome.  I can’t put it any clearer.  The 1oth Representative District in Delaware has only one choice to make on September 13th: Sean Matthews.

I met Sean in the beginning days of the 148th General Assembly when he came in as a rookie.  He is always friendly and cordial.  I knew he was an educator and stood for many of the same things I do.  But he took the ball and ran with it.  During the House Bill 50/opt out saga, he was in front of the bill supporting it all the way.  This brought him in conflict with some of his Democrat peers in the House, but he didn’t give up.  When there was a question if the bill would die in the original House vote, Sean added an amendment to make it just the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  My proudest moment with Sean Matthews came in March of 2015.  The News Journal had an opposing views column on opt out, and Sean annihilated State Rep. Earl Jaques position on the issue.

But Sean’s accomplishments go beyond just House Bill 50.  He sponsored House Bill 157, signed by Governor Markell, which would change how potential patients are able to gather crucial information about freestanding emergency rooms.  He helped ease some of the burdens citizens face during snowstorms when they live near a school with House Bill 129, also signed by the Governor.  Matthews also sponsored a bill that may not seem important now but could save many lives down the road with House Bill 91.  If a student is opted out of immunizations based on religious beliefs, that student would be temporarily excluded from school in the event of an outbreak for what that student could have received a vaccine for.  That one was controversial, but it makes sense in the context of that kind of frightening scenario.  Sean also signed on as a sponsor on many education bills that I pushed for, including House Bill 30 (basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade) and House Bill 399 (the teacher evaluation bill that I am hearing Governor Markell will sign in the next few weeks).

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As an educator in the Brandywine School District, Sean knows exactly what kind of challenges students face.  He doesn’t buy into the education fixit talk we hear from so many in Delaware.  He knows what teachers need to be able to reach students so they can truly succeed.  Not by a standardized test, but by treating students as unique and creative kids.  He knows that poverty is not an excuse for teachers to do their best with low-income students, but it plays a crucial factor in brain development.  I remember hearing him on the Rick Jensen Show one afternoon when he talked about the actual physical effects of poverty on the human brain and how that can impact a student’s ability to learn effectively.

On June 30th, 2015, Sean and five other Democrats valiantly said no to the budget that year.  He knew this would draw criticism from some of his peers who believe a budget vote must always be yes.  But he stood his ground, and for that I respect him.  I would rather see someone vote no for the right reasons than vote yes for the wrong reasons.

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He was one of the key members on the Assessment Inventory Committee that advocated for including the Smarter Balanced Assessment as one of the tests to look at getting rid of.  In the education arena we live in under Governor Markell, Sean consistently stuck his neck out in the face of fierce opposition.  But he did so with style and grace.  I don’t know if he first coined the phrase “cash in the trash” but it was the first time I heard it.  This term refers to the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on education reform that doesn’t really do anything for students or educators.

He is one of the younger and newer faces at Legislative Hall, but also one of the brightest.  Rookie House Reps aren’t always able to get a lot done during their first term.  But Matthews will be one to watch, that I can bank on.  We have only begun to see what Sean Matthews has to offer and I urge the citizens in the 10th District to vote for Sean next Tuesday, September 13th.  Dennis Williams had his time.  It passed in 2014 when something better came along.

Jack Markell, Blockchain, Coding Schools, Rodel, BRINC, Pathways To Prosperity, Registered Agents… Delaware’s Role In “The Ledger”

If Washington D.C. is the capital of America, than Delaware is the capital of corporate education reform.

Over the past week, many of us who are resisting the privatization of public education have been talking about The Ledger.  Peter Greene broke the news for the world to see, which Diane Ravitch quickly picked up on.  What is “The Ledger”? Continue reading “Jack Markell, Blockchain, Coding Schools, Rodel, BRINC, Pathways To Prosperity, Registered Agents… Delaware’s Role In “The Ledger””

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.

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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

Delaware Teacher Mike Matthews Reply To Delaware “Education” Governor Jack Markell

Former Red Clay Education Association and current Red Clay teacher Mike Matthews replied to Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s controversial email to Delaware teachers with the words only a teacher can say.  If any other teachers or Delaware citizens want me to publish their reply to our “education” Governor, let me know!

Gov. Markell:

Thank you for the email, but I feel I can’t accept your praise. First, the growth you’re praising is about as much as a margin of error in any political poll, so I’ll take said growth with a grain of salt. Second, you continue prop up this Smarter Balanced Assessment and the standards they are evaluating while failing to admit that this test provides virtually no diagnostic or beneficial material to educators in any timely fashion.

I’m going to keep this email short and say that while I respect you as a person and I respect many of the progressive stances you’ve taken during your nearly eight years in office, I continue to be disturbed by your tone and agenda when it comes to education matters. I would have thought you’d lighten up in your final year after the debacle that was Priority Schools. After mounting evidence has revealed that judging schools, teachers, and students on test scores is statistically unreliable and morally bankrupt. After charter after charter around Delaware continues to fail and close. After overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate vote to uphold a parents’ right to opt their children out of toxic standardized tests that do little to help their progress in school or out. After educators across the State vote unanimously no confidence in your corporate education reform Secretary of Education, Mark Murphy.

What other messages need to be sent to you, Governor, that your business-minded approach to education is not the way to go when we are working with students of varying needs and abilities. Using your business-model approach to education, Governor, who will get left behind when we close all those “poor-performing” schools because of a silly test score? Will it be the student with severe emotional needs that breaks down at the sight of a computerized test? Will it be the student who came to school on test day in soiled clothes after having eaten nothing the weekend before? Will it be the student who witnessed his brother get shot on the streets of Wilmington the night before?

While the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission has done a great job approaching many of the education issues your administration ignored during the first seven years of your administration (remember: the people you put in charge at DoE explicitly believe that poverty is NEVER a barrier to success. One Penny Schwinn actually stated that violence in Wilmington is never a challenge to a student’s success in school), it’s too little too late for your education legacy.

I wish this could have been different. I wish my outsized support for you in 2008 had been a little more probing when it came to education issues. As it stands, I regret the unequivocal support I offered you then both personally and by way of my blog, which no doubt contributed much to your narrow primary victory.

That being said, I genuinely wish you the best once you leave office and I hope someday you’ll realize the damage your education policies caused in this state and that you’ll have a change of heart in the coming years. 

One suggestion: At the conclusion of your term, I’d ask you to please spend a week with Warner teacher Monique Taylor-Gibbs to see what’s it’s like working at one of those “failing” schools. Your opinions will change and I guarantee you’ll realize the damage your administration did to our schools with the neverending “test and punish” schemes hoisted upon them.

All the best,

Mike

Sent from my iPhone

Jea Street Threatens To Sue Delaware If WEIC Bills Don’t Pass

“When it comes to justice for children of color in the city, it has never been the General Assembly, it has always been the courts or the federal government that acts,” Street said.  “I don’t think this is going to be any different.”

Civil rights advocate Jea Street told the News Journal he will sue the state of Delaware if the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan doesn’t pass.  The Delaware General Assembly has a limited amount of time to act on the plan.  There are six more voting days in the House of Representatives and nine in the Senate.  One of the bills was released from the House Education Committee but two others haven’t been heard yet.  If the bills pass the House, they must go to the Senate Education Committee.  Time is running out but so is the patience of advocates like Street.

Most other states have created systems that give extra funds to high-poverty schools, but Delaware’s system, he says, assumes a school in a violence- and poverty-wracked neighborhood can operate with the same resources as a school in a quiet, wealthy suburb.  “You talk to any expert, they’ll tell you that’s not how it works,” Street said.

Street was front and center during the press conference announcing the American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against the state and Red Clay Consolidated.  I haven’t heard Street talk about that lawsuit since it was announced.  That lawsuit alleged Delaware and Red Clay allowed charter schools to use discriminatory practices for enrollment purposes citing schools such as Charter School of Wilmington, Newark Charter School and Sussex Academy.  I don’t see him beating on that drum anymore.  That lawsuit has been lingering for over a year and a half while the Office of Civil Rights stalls on the investigation.  I have to wonder why the News Journal doesn’t talk about that when they are writing an article about discrimination in Wilmington.

On the other hand, I agree with Street.  Delaware passes the baton to the courts or the feds when things don’t change in the General Assembly.  But when the article talks about the schools in Wilmington being operated by districts in the suburbs, the Wilmington schools will still be handled by a district from the suburbs.  The inequities he is talking about will still be there, but they will be more concentrated in one district.  From what I’m hearing, the Education Funding Improvement Commission report is delayed and may not be out by June 30th.  Having gone to one of the meetings, no one could seem to agree on any one viable strategy.  I’ve found Delaware likes to talk about education… a lot!  But when it comes time to make the crucial decisions, everyone sits like a deer in the headlights.  In the meantime, children suffer.  We spend tons of money on research and reports but we don’t do anything with it.  We had that huge Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities.  The DOE paid Public Consulting Group somewhere around $50,000 to do that report.  And what do we  have to show for it?  Absolutely nothing.  It is money that could have been used on something viable, like an extra teacher in one of these schools.  Instead we piss away money on absolute nonsense!

Amy, Skyline, Bomb Threats, Bus Issues, Fighting, Bullying, Inclusion, Zero Tolerance: How Do We Fix The Mess?

In the wake of what happened at Howard High School of Technology a week ago, many are questioning how to fix what is happening in our schools.  There are no easy answers.  I have not heard anyone defending the perpetrators of Amy’s murder.  But I have seen people describe students who exhibit behavior issues referred to as “animals” and “they should be sent to labor camps”.  While this is an extreme, I’ve heard these types of comments more than once, and I hear it more and more.  Once we go down that path we are essentially labeling these students as helpless and stating there is nothing we can do to help them.  And let’s face facts: when people say this there is a very racist undertone and they are referring to African-Americans.  I don’t agree with it on any level and every time I see it I want to ship the people who would say things like that out of our state.

Just this school year we have seen the following: a charter school that closed mid-year due to an uncontrollable environment, a change in feeder patterns resulting in many instances of bullying at a Red Clay middle school, a bizarre number of bomb threats resulting in many schools closing for the day, a child intimidated by a bus driver in Appoquinimink, a father suing Brandywine over what he alleges are due process violations and unsubstantiated searches, students sent to hospitals as a result of fighting that are never publicly acknowledged but whispered about on social media, inclusion practices that are not working, and a student who died from a brutal assault last week at Howard.

As our state grapples with these issues, we have not seen solutions put forth that look at the big picture.  Why are our students acting out?  Why are many of our schools attempting to hide many of these issues?  I have attended many State Board of Education meetings this year and I listen to their audio recordings.  We don’t hear them discussing these kinds of issues too much, if at all.  They seem to be more concerned with student outcomes based on standardized tests, Pathways programs, charter schools, accountability for schools, and celebrating the good things in our schools while giving short shrift to the issues that truly impact school climate.

It starts there.  To get to the heart of issues like this, you have to start at the top and have it trickle down to the Superintendents or Heads of School, to the building administrators, to the teachers, to the students and to the community.  If we have that massive disconnect at the top, the issues can never truly be addressed.  If our State Board and legislators can’t get these matters fixed, how can we expect our schools to do so?

To adequately blame one thing that started a lot of this, we can blame zero tolerance.  After the Columbine shootings in 1999, a massive wave of zero tolerance spread throughout America.  No school wanted to have a situation like that on their hands.  Students would be suspended for frivolous things.  It got to a point in Delaware where an African-American first grader was expelled in the Christina School District for having a cake knife.  As a result of that one bad judgment call, a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) resulted in the district entering an agreement with the OCR.  Because the OCR ruled too many minority student suspensions were happening, the district had to be very careful about how they were meting punishment to students.  Other districts saw what happened to Christina and didn’t want to suffer the same fate.

As a result, there was no consistency throughout the state on best practices.  For all the accountability and “standardization” of students based on very flawed state assessments, there has never been any definitive set of standards for school discipline and school climate.  There is no consistency with how schools report instances of bullying, offensive touching, and fighting.  Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn pointed this out many times but there has been no direct accountability to schools over these issues.  Part of the problem with discipline issues is the unique nature of them.  Because of student privacy and FERPA regulations, many situations can’t be discussed publicly.  There is no accurate tracking method to make sure our schools are recording these instances on the state reporting system, E-school, as required by state law within a set time period.  The result is very bad data in the one area we actually need it the most.  Add in special education issues and behaviors exhibited by students with disabilities.  Is it a result of their disability or is it everyday behavior?  Sometimes we just don’t know.

Some schools are very faithful with recording issues, but far too many aren’t.  How do we know which schools need help with issues if they aren’t being 100% honest about what is going on in their halls?  What shape would that help even be?  If it is a punitive measure from the state, is that going to solve the problem or persuade schools to hide things better?  Non-profits and corporations are lining up to get into our schools to offer what amounts to for-profit assistance.  Under the guise of the Every Student Succeeds Act, there is a call for companies to come into our schools like never before to offer after-school programs and to turn our schools into all-day community centers.  As well, we are seeing some states allowing companies to essentially bet on student outcomes in return for financial profit through social impact bonds.  Many of these ideas are concerning to parents.  Should schools be a place where medical and therapeutic treatment for students occur?  For neglected and abused children, this could be a life-saving measure for those children.  But it also opens up more of our public education system to less control at the local level.  Many feel government should not even be allowed to write something like this into any law.  The Elementary/Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was designed to make sure minority students were given equal footing in schools and were not disadvantaged.  Written in 1965, its goal was actually simple: equal rights for all.  Fifty years later, we are still tackling many of the original issues.  But now we want to turn our schools into more than what they should be.

As far as this insane filming of fights in our schools, it is a new environment with no oversight.  Students want to become social media famous because people come to their profile to look at it.  Something needs to happen immediately.  It is fostering an environment that is not healthy and desensitizes kids to violence.  Even community Facebook pages that have nothing but street fights on them exist unchecked and unmonitored.  In some of these videos, you actually see people telling others how to evade the police and they give warnings when the police are in the area.  For some reason, students are fascinated by this.  But the effect is chilling.  As well, the role of technology in our schools and homes is greater than ever.  But why are we allowing students to carry iPhones around school?  How much of the violence from gaming is warping young minds?  For that matter, what is all this screen time doing to all our brains?

If Amy’s tragic death has shown us anything it is that something is very broken.  We have to fix it, no matter what.  Amy’s situation is by far the worst thing that could happen to a student in school.  But many students bare physical and emotional scars from this broken system.  They are the survivors of fights and bullying that cause trauma to the soul, if not the physical.  On the flip side, we have students like Patrick Wahl’s son Joseph who many view as a victim of very bizarre due process circumstances for a district that still follows zero tolerance tendencies.  There are good things happening in our schools.  Don’t get me wrong on that.  We see students participating in charity events and giving back to their community on many levels.  But that can’t be all the public sees.  We have to look at the bad too.  We can’t put a blanket over the violence in our schools and pretend it isn’t there.  Amy’s death shattered that illusion in our state.

In the shadow of all this is the other illusion the state has cast on parents.  Many parents judge schools based on their performance without realizing the measurement of that performance is fundamentally flawed.  To get a basic breakdown of how this works, many years ago corporations decided they could make money off education.  They tailored reports to give the illusion that “the sky is falling” and all students were in danger of falling behind other countries.  Politicians jumped on the bandwagon through concerted lobbying efforts on the part of these companies, and soon enough new laws came down from a federal level based on student outcomes from standardized tests.  No Child Left Behind opened the door but Race To The Top opened the floodgates for this corporate invasion.  As schools were labeled and shamed under “school turnaround” laws, the US DOE started their ESEA flexibility waiver scheme.  They bribed schools with money to further these agendas.  Our schools and districts took the money with immense pressure from state governments during a recession.  A dramatic shift in school climate happened.  As more and more teachers took part in professional development to train them on the Common Core and other company initiatives, something happened to students.  They were not supervised the way they were prior to all of this and they found new ways to usurp authority, especially in schools with large populations of high-needs students.  Add in the situation with the OCR in Christina, and it was a recipe for disaster.  Diane Ravitch wrote today about the fifteen years of “fake” reform and how the impetus behind it all, NAEP scores, show students who are now seniors more behind than they were compared to their counterparts in 1992.  Common Core doesn’t work.

What if what we are seeing with student behavior and the reasons behind it are all wrong?  What if those who come from poverty, special needs, and low-income minority populations isn’t just misbehavior but something else altogether?  What if it is a direct result of a system designed for conformity?  The supposed goal of the Common Core was to make all students get the same set of standards across the country.  I hear many consistent things from parents in Delaware.  For smarter kids, Common Core isn’t so tough once they get it.  But for struggling students, basically the ones from sub-groups that perform poorly on state assessments, it is much more difficult.  Perhaps what we are seeing with this absolute disregard of authority in schools is a natural defense mechanism kicking in.  A fight or flight mechanism when their way of living, of being, is attacked.  The natural instinct for teenagers is to rebel.  Compound that with an entire education system designed to make students question authority less and use “critical thinking” based on standards that actually give children less choices, and something will give.  We are seeing this now.  And if we continue on the same track, it will get far worse.  If a “smart” student gets it faster, it would naturally put other students behind.  This is the impossible bar the Common Core puts on students.  For the intelligent who come from wealthier and more cohesive home environments, this isn’t a problem.  But for students with disabilities who cannot always control their actions and minority students who do not have the environmental stability their more advantaged peers have, it will take a great deal of effort to catch up with their peers.  Add in the stress and anxiety they have from their environment outside of school to the pressure to perform in school, and the pressure gage gets higher.  Then add the explosive need every teenager has, to belong and have friends, and the gage gets closer to the point of no return.  Throw in a fixation on violence mixed with wanting to be accepted and the Pompeii of public education is set.  Last week we saw the volcanic eruption of rage unchecked and bystanders filming it and doing nothing.

The biggest victims of the education reform movement are inner-city African-American students.  While civil rights groups demanded more equity for these students they fell into the trap the corporate education reformers methodically laid out for them with financial enticements.  The reformers echoed their complaints and pitted parents against teachers.  The reformers used standardized test scores to give a false impression of schools and invented a whole new language based on the word “gap”: the equity gap, the proficiency gap, the honesty gap, and on and on and on.  Add in school choice, a growing charter school movement, forced busing based on a horrible Neighborhood Schools Act in Delaware, and the rise of Jack Markell as Governor wrapped in a corporate bow and the perfect storm began in our schools.

To ignore the plight of African-Americans in Delaware would be a gross injustice.  It goes way beyond apologizing for slavery.  A friend of mine sent me an article about the 1968 Occupation of Wilmington.  The article written by Will Bunch with philly.com talked about the nine-month Occupation of Wilmington by the National Guard following the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.  For the African-American community in Wilmington at the time, this was a grave injustice:

On the other hand, in a sign of some of the deep divide and mistrust in Delaware that lingers to this day, the white Democratic governor down in Dover decided to send in the National Guard – and then kept troops on the streets of Wilmington for nine long months, the longest military occupation of a U.S. city since the Civil War.

And this quote from former Wilmington Mayor James Baker:

But the memory still burns for those who lived through the occupation. “It sent a shock wave through the social-service agencies . . . and the city as a whole,” Baker recalled. “People said, ‘What are we doing?’ “

Many African-American communities in Wilmington are very distrustful of the government, and for very good reasons.  This belief gets handed down from generation to generation.  But when drugs enter a city like Wilmington, followed by violence and murders, that distrust can get out of control.  How do we tackle this?  How do we lift a whole city out of a problem of this magnitude?  When my friend sent me this article, it was a response to my question about why we don’t just send in tons of cops and clean it all up, all the drugs and gangs.  She informed me the last time this happened it didn’t work out too well.  It astonishes me that we are still dealing with issues of race in the 21st Century, but we are and we need to face it and deal with it, all of us.  But at the same time, we cannot ignore what individuals are doing in individual circumstances.

We need to be very careful on how we plan to deal with the situations in far too many of our schools.  Far too much is tied into the very bad education reforms that show, time and time again, how it just doesn’t work.  But our current system has been infiltrated with far too many people tied to these efforts.  I expected to see a late rush of legislation coming forth at Legislative Hall in the final days of June.  With very little community input and transparency, we need to watch our legislators like a hawk and make sure what they put forth is best for students and not the broken system some of them are trying desperately to make permanent.  The funding mechanisms for our schools are under the microscope, but if we squeeze the property assessment orange too fast, it could cause many to leave the state they moved to because of low taxes.  As well, we need to be mindful of laws Delaware could pass in anticipation of the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act.  The law is still being flushed out in a lot of areas and the DOE and Governor Markell WILL take full advantage of that to please the hedge funders and corporations.

If businesses want to come into our schools and turn them into community schools, they should pay rent to our schools.  If they want to turn education into a marketplace, like any other store they need to pay their rent.  Why are we giving them a free ride while they make millions and millions and our districts get less?  It makes no sense when you look at it like a business model.  But no, our state wants to give them tax discounts for doing business in our state.  We are giving them free reign to pump out the same products over and over again with no actual results.

While these aren’t the solutions we need to make our schools safer, it is a big start.  Our district administrators are far too distracted with all of the nonsense around Common Core, state assessments, personalized learning, and career pathways when they should be focused on the more important things.  The first steps to ending violence in our schools are actually quite simple.  A rebellion like none seen before in public education.  A collective and concerted effort to rid ourselves of the catalysts that are stroking the flames in our children’s lives.  End Common Core.  End state assessments.  End the testing accountability machine that destroys morale in students, teachers, and schools.  End the corporate interference in education that perpetuates the false ideals that if students have more “rigor” and “grit” they can become college and career ready.  We are indoctrinating children at a very young age to be something they are not meant to be.  The human mind won’t allow it.  Some will conform.  But for the growing poor and disabled in our country, they will not be what the reformers want them to be.  You can’t guide a four-year old towards a certain career path based on data and scores.  You can’t say they don’t qualify for special education if a disability has not manifested itself yet.  End the abhorrent amount of data collection on our students for “educational research”.

This is the start.  Let’s get back to more human education.  Why are we doing this to our future?  No child should be a victim of a padded resume or a fattened wallet.  The majority of teachers will tell you privately what we are doing is not working.  Administrators will as well if you catch them on a good day.  But they feel threatened that if they don’t comply their profession will disappear.  They will fight for certain things but when they need to openly rebel against the system, it doesn’t happen.  It is their self-defense mechanism.  The closest we have come to ending this era of education reform is opt out.  But even that is in danger of disappearing if the education tech invaders get their way and have the state assessment embedded in small chunks instead of a once a year test.  The personalized learning and competency-based education models are already calling for this.

When I hear people say “all you do is complain, what are your solutions?”, I cringe.  The problem is so epic in scope, so large in diameter, that it will take a great deal of effort by many well-meaning people to find all the answers.  And when I say well-meaning, I don’t mean the Rodel Foundation or the Governor.  I mean the people who are not affected by corporate greed and a lust for power.  I’m talking about the people who truly want to save our children.

Delaware GOP Poverty Plan Would Bring Social Impact Bonds & Glorified Vouchers To Delaware

Matt Albright with the Delaware News Journal unveiled the Delaware Republican Senate’s Poverty Plan before it was even presented to Delaware lawmakers.  Included in these 11 potential ideas are two items that are highly disdained by advocates for public education: Social Impact Bonds and school vouchers.

As if we haven’t learned enough from the problems with corporations dipping into education waters, the Delaware GOP wants Social Impact Bonds, or “Pay For Success” programs in Delaware.  I wrote about how Delaware opened the door for Social Impact Bonds last month.  This is extremely dangerous for any public education system.  Having corporations get the ability to earn a profit from student measures is a potential minefield.  If a goal, for example, is to have 95% of students in a pre-school not get special education in the elementary school system based on early interventions in reading, how do we know the results won’t be pushed towards that goal regardless of what a student actually needs?  As well, for some students, a disability may not manifest until a later age.  We have seen how Goldman Sachs attempted this in another state with very controversial results.  Social Impact Bonds have no place in K-12 education.  Students should not be fodder for corporate investment.

Also included in the poverty plan is a form of school vouchers called “Scholarship Tax Credits”.  This latest round of tax credits in Delaware would give additional tax credit to those who donate to non-profits for the purpose of scholarships to low-income students to attend private schools.  This is just another way of getting a school voucher system going.  If this point were brought into legislation, it would recognize school vouchers as an additional education funding mechanism in Delaware.  This is something Governor Markell opposes on any level.  This is one of those rare areas where the two of us are in agreement.  Vouchers would further deplete traditional school districts of funding when they are already losing a great deal of local and state funding to charter schools and other choice schools.

There are some other Easter eggs in this plan that concern me.  The plan calls for removing some restrictions from federal grants aimed at fighting poverty.  Instead of allocations to certain areas, the Delaware GOP wants those restrictions lifted.  This could result in the Delaware Department of Education wanting funds to go towards more “focus” or “priority” schools.  While most can agree schools with high concentrations of poverty certainly need more money, once the Delaware DOE gets involved, there is no guarantee those funds would make it into the classroom.  We saw that happen with Race To The Top funds where the DOE got half of the $119 million the state won.  Instead of actually making a difference with that money, most of it went to outside vendors whose reports made Delaware schools look bad and our State Longitudinal Data System, which makes it possible for corporate education reformers to get student data and use it to their advantage.

The part of the plan that also concerns me is an idea concerning more people entering the workforce as an apprentice.  The article in the News Journal specifically mentions Zip Code Wilmington, which is run by Ben DuPont.  The DuPont family is a huge influence on the Delaware GOP.  They are also a huge influence on Delaware charter schools.  They run the Longwood Foundation which has donated millions of dollars to Delaware charter schools.  This is just more of the same.  Governor Markell’s “Pathways to Prosperity” program is clearly designed to track students into certain career paths.  I covered a great deal of this master plan a couple weeks ago  and I have to wonder how much of it is included in this poverty agenda.  I know, many will assume I am looking for things that don’t exist.  They said the same thing when I said the Smarter Balanced Assessment will replace the SAT.  While it was the opposite, the SAT became more like the Smarter Balanced Assessment when the College Board retooled the SAT to align with Common Core.

One glaring omission about a whole agenda to lift folks out of poverty is no mention of increased wages.  The Delaware GOP consistently, as a majority of their party, fights against minimum wage increases.  That should be the first step to decreasing poverty.  Families can’t survive on the minimum wage.  It just isn’t possible.  While the plan concedes not all members of the GOP Delaware Senate agree on all of these ideas, it opens the door to Delaware Democrats who may actually want to see programs like Social Impact Bonds in Delaware.  Like everything in Delaware, it will come down to who is involved with any type of task forces or committees if this gets to that point.

To read the entire plan, see below:

WEIC Addendum Gives Red Clay Distinct Advantages Over All School Districts In Delaware

KeyserSoze

The State Board of Education will vote on the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan on Thursday, February 18th.  What they are voting on will give Red Clay certain advantages over every other school district and charter school in the State of Delaware.  The plan calls for additional funding for Red Clay Consolidated and the Christina schools currently in Wilmington that would become part of Red Clay by Fiscal Year 2019.  This funding be based on a weighted funding formula to be approved by the Delaware General Assembly (of which there is no current legislation addressing this).  The weighted funding would give additional funding for English Language Learners, low-income students, and basic special education for children in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  The money would come in FY2017.  This funding would spread out into FY2018 to the remaining schools in the Christina School District.  By FY2019, all city of Wilmington School districts and charter schools would receive this additional funding.

Hey Tony Allen and the WEIC gang: What about the rest of Delaware?  While I think it’s great you are recommending the entire state gets these funds as soon as possible, there is no crystal clear plan for that happening.  But there is certainly a plan for all of northern New Castle County.  In case you forgot, over half the students in the state exist outside this plan.  So what happens when Wilmington gets all this extra money, support and resources?  What happens to the almighty standardized test scores?  Will there be a curve for the rest of the state when Red Clay does better and then the rest of the Wilmington districts?  It will give those schools a disproportionate advantage over the rest of the state.  More funding means more teaching units in the classroom, whether it is more teachers or more paraprofessionals.  In case you haven’t checked, there are poor kids south of the Canal as well.  Kids with disabilities and many English Language Learners, especially in Sussex County.  I guess it’s okay to make them wait until FY2020 or never based on your plan.

But this goes beyond just funding, because all these organizations like the United Way of Delaware (not Wilmington) and other community service associations will be pouring support into Wilmington schools as well.  I’m not saying Wilmington doesn’t need all of this.  I’m saying ALL of Delaware does.  The problems in Wilmington schools are not necessarily unique to just Wilmington schools.  They are all over the state.  Wilmington doesn’t get to receive $22-26 million in additional funding on top of community organization support AND $3 million going to the University of Delaware over the next few years while the rest of the state watches AND pays for it.  It’s like going to a birthday party and watching someone open up all their presents.  But this birthday party will go on for three years.  And this party isn’t in Wilmington, it’s in the whole state of Delaware and we all have to pay the rent for the party while Wilmington gets all the presents.  Meanwhile, we won’t get any of those cool presents but we will be judged on the same level as if we got those presents.  And the result…

cliff_hanging

 

Tony Allen, I met with you last March.  I told you then about my concerns with Delaware special education.  I told you about the funding issues, the charter issues, and the district issues.  I told you if special education isn’t a major part of this, I can’t support it.  To date, I’m not seeing it.  I don’t see it in the plans for the next few years.  I don’t see a committee that is just about special education and how to improve it.  Even though you told me this would happen.  When Tony?  Next year?  The year after?  Or never?  That really pissed me off Tony.  You gave me your word.  That word doesn’t mean anything now.  Sorry to call you out like this, but I don’t appreciate being told something and then it doesn’t happen.

But I do see WEIC will take all the propaganda and corporate education reform lingo and throw it into their plans to appease the State Board of Education and the Governor.  WEIC swallowed the bait.  All this birth to eight crap, and birth to college.  Who do we think we’re fooling?  Wait until the Social Impact Bonds start coming out.  When students futures are hedged for the investors.  That’s what all this is about: Student Capital.

If the goal of all of this is to turn schools in Wilmington into community centers, I can’t back this.  At all.  That’s where we’re going with all this.  I feel for the kids up there.  I truly do.  My heart bleeds when I read about the murders and violence in Wilmington.  But pouring all this money into education doesn’t even address the problem.  Get the social workers out there, get the police to effectively put an end to the drug and gang problems, and get the Attorney General to clean up Wilmington.  Where are the jobs for the unemployed up there?  Where is the drive to end homelessness?  You are ignoring these crucial issues that impact education.  But what you are really doing is placing the burden on the whole state for Wilmington’s problems!  Who pays for this?  Every single taxpayer in the state.  All of us.  If it comes from the state budget, it comes from every single one of us.  But you want us to pour all this extra money into Wilmington schools while the rest of the state sits stagnant and waits?  So high-stakes testing scores can go up?  Really?  What happens if those test scores remain the same or actually go down?  Do we call all of this a failure?  What happens when the Red Clay schools show the coveted “growth” in test scores because they got more money.  It makes the schools and districts who don’t get this funding look worse.  More labeling.  More shaming.  We will prop Red Clay and the other Wilmington schools up at the expense of the rest of the state.

All of you involved with this who don’t have the guts to address the true issues here need to wake the hell up!  The biggest problem is the illusion of failure!  You are allowing the DOE and Markell to dictate the terms of success for this without realizing those terms consign every student in Delaware to their money-making Ponzi education reform buddies on Wall Street!  And those buddies are going to start betting on the outcomes.  That’s all a Social Impact Bond is: a bet.  Between a governmental unit and a company.  It’s a gamble.  Our children, all the children of Wilmington, all the children of Delaware, are pawns.  WEIC is just making sure it happens sooner than expected.

chess

Last month, WEIC got played by the State Board of Education.  It was out there for everyone to see it, in real-time.  But now WEIC is kissing the State Board’s ass!  Completely ignoring the fact they broke the law is one thing, but now you are going to play kissy-face with them?  It’s disgusting.  It’s appalling.  But I guess that’s the Delaware Way, hard at work again.  This whole thing kicked off because of two things: priority schools and charter schools.  Let’s not forget that.  Based on two things: standardized test scores and discrimination.  We can sit here and pretend it’s all about sixty years of Brown vs. the Board of Education, but the reality is simple.  It’s about the damn scores.  It’s what we measure success and failure by.  What the hell is WEIC doing to address those things?  You recommended a moratorium on new charter schools but many of them are increasing and decreasing their enrollment all over the place up there.  And nobody is saying boo about it.  Those charters are taking full advantage of this cause they know they have the full support of the State Board, DOE, and Governor Markell.  Wasn’t that the biggest thing to come out of WEAC?  And now you’re going to put all these students into a district that can’t even get an inclusion plan right?  While you ignore the cherry-picking and discrimination by two (possibly three) of the biggest offenders in the state, let alone America?  You have now become part of the problem WEIC.  My issue with WEIC isn’t that I underestimate them, it’s that I don’t trust them.  And please, change the name of your website.  These aren’t solutions for Delaware schools, these are solutions for Wilmington schools.  You aren’t fooling anyone.

To read all the latest on the WEIC plans, read below:

 

Capital’s Board Of Education’s House Bill 50 Veto Override Letter To Legislators Is Amazing!!!!!

Lindell

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: If John or Jane have to worry about if there is going to be food on the table for dinner tonight, worry about if they will have a roof over their head, or worry about being hit by a stray bullet within their neighborhoods, the self-actualization required to succeed on these tests, or for that matter, school, is made even more difficult for these students.  This translates into schools that service large high-need populations facing a difficult climb to reach accountability targets.

I was curious why the Capital School District Board of Education did not pass an official policy on opt-out the way Christina and Red Clay did.  They were the first Delaware school board to pass a resolution honoring a parent’s right to opt their child out of high-stakes state assessments way before anyone else did, back in October 2014.  The answer to that question is included in the below letter.  It was introduced at their January meeting and will be voted on at their meeting next Wednesday, February 17th.  This is the best letter I think I’ve ever seen written about opt-out, anywhere!  And I have seen some awesome letters!  Kudos to Board President Matt Lindell, Vice-President Sean Christiansen, John Martin, Nauleen Perry, and Ralph Taylor for this letter that says more about Delaware education than anything I have seen in a long time!  Thank you!

Why We Fight

cropped-deledreformers4.png

I wrote an article over the weekend about Newark Charter School that touched on the heart of this blog. It was about a denial of the ability for parents to apply their daughter to NCS.  Their daughter happens to have a very rare disability.  Only a few people, from my viewpoint, have defended the school’s actions.  One was the head of school.  Thousands have come to the defense of the parents.  Eventually, the school heard the people and allowed the little girl into the lottery.  While she didn’t get picked in the lottery, equality was reached.  This is why we fight.

I don’t write this blog for the schools.  I write it to be a voice for parents in Delaware.  It began as a voice for my own son, but quickly spread to ALL parents.  In this article, the parents reached out to the admissions office, the school board, and the Delaware Department of Education.  In all three instances they were told NO.  The parents then reached out to a State Representative which was how I became involved.  I brought the people into this and they spoke with a loud and clear voice.  This is why we fight.

Had I contacted the school first, the article most likely would have been very different. The school could have flat-out refused to respond to me, which has happened in many situations.  They also could have reached out to the parent, spun the tale their way, and no article would have been written.  The parents wanted this information out there.  They wanted parents to be aware of what was going on at one of our most “prestigious” public schools in Delaware.  This is why we fight.

Right now, Delaware Governor Jack Markell is signing a joint resolution apologizing for slavery in Delaware. He will talk about how far we’ve come and how far we still need to go.  In the meantime, his education policies, followed by those of the US Government, have done more to cause 21st Century segregation and discrimination in Delaware schools than anything else in the past ten years.  Students with disabilities, English Language Learners, African-Americans, Hispanics, and children from low-income and poverty environments all bear the brunt of his false ideology.  This is why we fight.

I changed the header image on Exceptional Delaware this morning. In my opinion, all seventeen pictures represent the faces of education reform in Delaware.  They have ignored parents and caused most of the problems.  Whether it was through their votes, policies, agendas, manipulation, fraud, plots, schemes, lobbying, coalitions, dictatorship, coercion, money-grabs, or arrogance, they are all guilty.  This is why we fight.

Penny Schwinn. John King.  Earl Jaques.  Mark Murphy.  Jack Markell.  Greg Lavelle.  David Sokola.  Kendall Massett.  Arne Duncan.  Teri Quinn Gray.  Chris Ruszkowski.  Paul Herdman.  Donna Johnson.  Pete Schwartzkopf.  Michael Watson.  Chris Coons.  Tim Dukes.  This is why we fight.

They are the power brokers of education in Delaware. They destroy what is good and meaningful.  They believe high-stakes testing is the right thing.  Not for the good of students, but for their power.  They institute policies that give no regard to what children are.  They use them, as pawns and widgets in their laws and regulations.  They don’t believe parents have the right to voice their opinion and they view transparency as a joke.  This is why we fight.

To date, not one of them has been held accountable for their actions. Sure, they’ve had mud slung at them, but nothing has resulted in anything positive for students.  Some are new to the landscape while others have been around from the very beginning.  I’ve met some of these people, and they are very nice when it is just the two of you.  But behind the scenes, in the offices where nobody sees what really goes on, that is when the plans take shape.  This is why we fight.

Parents have the power to stop all this, but we lack the numbers. We talk about all this, or write about it, but to date we haven’t been able to stop anything they are doing.  We need to change this.  We need to fight, in unity and as a large and powerful group.  Parents did this in New York.  They forced change and it has come.  There is no reason why, in a state as small as Delaware, we can’t do the same.  Until they hear us, really hear us, we must opt our children out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  We must face those who would ignore us and make decisions about our children without any thought to the damaging consequences.  We must stop believing the lies and manipulation and force the truth out of these people.  This is why we fight.

Our children are the legacy we leave the world. They are the future.  They are tomorrow.  The forces around them will smile in front of you while planting the seeds for their control of your children.  Every single law, every single regulation, every “non-profit” event we attend… we give them power.  There are some organizations that have no choice but to comply with some of this.  They will fight, but their power is limited because of who they are.  I get that.  They are also fighting for their own survival.  I have judged these groups in the past, sometimes with humor, but most times with righteous anger.  We just need to go around them and not go through them to make change.  They are not evil, but they are in awkward positions.  This is why we fight.

Only parents can speak loud enough to make the changes necessary for our children. We are their voice in the truest sense of the word.  They need us to fight their battles for them until the time comes when they need to do the same for their children.  They can’t see what is happening.  They need us to find the truth and act on the knowledge we find.  They need us to stop what is going on in their classrooms, in their schools, and how they want to control our children outside of school.  This is why we fight.

We fight for our own children and we fight for all children. We fight for those who have neurobiological actions they cannot always control.  We fight for those who are not picked because of the color of their skin or their last name.  We fight for those who have nothing except the clothes on their back.  We fight for those who want to teach our children the best way they can but have no voice because of the fear of retribution.  We fight for equality and justice.  We fight for public education and getting rid of anything that brings profit to those who don’t belong in our schools.  We fight for our own rights, silenced by those in power because they know as a whole we can destroy what they seek to tear down.  This is why we fight.

Delaware GOP Senate Declares War On Poverty!

The Delaware Republican Minority in the Delaware Senate had some very strong words to say on the subject of poverty earlier today.

 

Taking On The Issue Of Poverty In Delaware – You Can Help!

Poverty is one of the greatest challenges of our society. Too many people go to bed at night without the basics of life – proper food, shelter and clothing. And those who have these basics, many are often insecure about whether they will have them in the future.

Delaware can no longer measure success on poverty issues simply by how many tax dollars we can spend. Success can only be measured by how many of our fellow Delawareans are lifted out of poverty and set off on a better path.

Beginning now, we are making it a priority to help Delawareans lift themselves out of poverty, and in doing so, reduce the demand for government resources. We believe we can help people improve their lives and shrink the size of government at the same time.

We are preparing to release a Republican Senate Poverty Agenda that focuses on three categories: improving skills and opportunity for workers, increasing educational options for kids in poverty, and strengthening families.

Ideas up for consideration in our agenda include:

* An increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit, rewarding Delaware’s poorest working people for sticking it out in the job market;

* Scholarship Tax Credits that encourage individuals and businesses to fund scholarships for low-income students to attend private schools;

* A resolution to call on the federal government to fund our anti-poverty programs through a “block grant with rails,” which allows decisions to be made at the level closest to the people, while protecting the integrity of the funds;

* A pro-marriage media campaign to promote the benefits of marriage for economic stability;

* A tax credit for businesses who hire apprentices and provide on-the-job training of a marketable skill; and

* Creating a commission to perform a comprehensive review of all Delaware worker training programs, seeking out best practices and ensuring that skills training for the jobs of today takes the highest priority.

This is just a portion of our agenda, and while we are proud of our ideas, we are also eager to work across the aisle on ideas that have merit. This is why many in our caucus have joined with Democratic Rep. Paul Baumbach on a bill to give a refundable tax cut to our poorest working people. And this is why we have reached out to the Governor’s office for a genuine role in his upcoming reform of our occupational licensing system, which is on our agenda as well.

While we have been researching this issue for some time now, and are confident we have ideas and a philosophy that will make a real difference, we know that the true innovators are the people of the state of Delaware. So we are sending out a Call For Ideas to address the issue of poverty in Delaware.

We invite you to submit your ideas via email to our Chief of Staff, Dave Burris, at david.burris@state.de.us. The criteria for submissions:

* Ideas must be addressable at the state level. We have little to no control over federal programs and spending.

* Ideas must not create a permanently funded government program. While government can be the impetus for change, creating layers upon layers of new programs simply puts a band-aid on the problem, and keeps people in poverty. It is not a solution. So we will accept ideas that use short-term investments of state dollars, but not permanently funded new programs.

* While we always welcome constituent ideas, the deadline for consideration in the poverty agenda is Friday, February 12th.

If your new idea is chosen to be part of our Poverty Agenda, we will credit you and you will be invited to be part of our press event when we roll out the legislation.

We thank you for helping us tackle some of the largest problems facing Delaware today. We know that together, we can solve problems and help our fellow Delawareans lift themselves out of poverty.

 

I think this is an excellent idea!  So much that I have already submitted my idea:

From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
To:
“david.burris@state.de.us” <david.burris@state.de.us>
Sent:
Tuesday, February 2, 2016 3:12 PM
Subject:
Senate GOP Poverty Agenda Call For Ideas

Mr. Burris,
I am responding to the call for ideas from the Senate GOP Poverty Agenda Call issued today.  I have a proposed idea that would solve a large controversial issue and would also generate funds for students in poverty. 
In 2013, the 147th General Assembly passed House Bill 165, a charter school reform bill.  Included in this was a stipulation that charter schools could keep any excess funds provided from the state for their transportation budget.  As an example, say Delaware Charter School budgets $150,000 for their bus transportation budget, but only spends $115,000.  Based on that law, they get to keep that $35,000 difference.  What if we did away with that loophole, and had those funds go directly to families and individuals in poverty?  This transportation fund usually averages out to an average of $1.45 million a year based on the last two years of this program.  If these funds were redistributed to families in poverty, it could be the difference between a family actually eating for a few weeks or being hungry.
Quite a few legislators stand opposed to this “slush” fund as some call it.  I am in agreement with them.  Thank you for your consideration on this matter. 
Respectfully,
Kevin Ohlandt