Ron Russo’s BOLD Plan Regurgitates Old Plans And The Worst Ideas Ever In Delaware Education

Ron Russo, the former Head of School at the Charter School of Wilmington, launched The BOLD Plan today on Facebook.  Using the tag “Education is a business”, Russo managed to take the most horrible ideas ever from the past three decades and put them into a single pile of absolute garbage.  While I don’t think this plan will go anywhere, it is symptomatic of the very same corporate education reform think tank crap that has proliferated American public education and turned Delaware’s school system into a very bad joke. The whole plan can be read below. Continue reading

Christina Superintendent Gregg’s Reaction To Carney Comes To Christina

Christina Superintendent Richard Gregg issued a statement today on the Christina School District website in response to Delaware Governor John Carney’s visit to a special Christina Board of Education meeting the other night.  I wouldn’t expect an unfavorable response to the visit but it did a great job showing the Board’s concern with Carney’s “partnership” idea.

Message from Christina Superintendent Richard L. Gregg – October 5, 2017

Dear Christina Community:
On October 3, the Christina Board of Education held a Study Session that was attended by Delaware Governor John Carney, Secretary of Education Susan Bunting, and several other state officials and legislators. The Governor addressed Board members directly to personally request that they consider entering into a partnership between the Governor’s Office, the Delaware Department of Education, and the Christina School District to improve five of Christina’s schools in Wilmington: Bancroft Elementary School, Elbert-Palmer Elementary School, Pulaski Elementary School, Stubbs Elementary School, and Bayard Middle School. Governor Carney stated that together, Christina and the state need to focus on making changes that will raise the achievement levels of Wilmington students. 
The first step in this process will be for Christina to work together with the Governor’s Office and the Delaware Department of Education, with the goal of developing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This MOU, subject to Board approval, would outline the details of an agreement to be implemented in the 2018-2019 school year. Governor Carney communicated to board members that the state’s focus is on five main issues:
  1. Giving school principals more control over decision-making
  2. Empowering teachers to have more input on how resources are used
  3. Addressing student achievement rates, including how current facilities can be used and improved
  4. Creating “trauma-informed classrooms” that ensure safe, supportive schools
  5. Establishing systems that can create meaningful, sustained change
These issues could be addressed in a variety of ways, including implementing new governance models, exploring additional learning time, providing trauma-informed supports, implementing programs for infants through adults, creating a pipeline of teachers and leaders, and addressing the root causes of poverty.
Christina Board members asked the governor important questions about the proposal. Their concerns included:
  • the level of specifics being offered about the partnership
  • the state’s commitment to acting as a true partner in the venture
  • the importance of making changes in the best interests of children rather than adults
  • the level of input Christina leaders and staff would have in developing the MOU
  • how this proposal is different from past interventions by the state 
Governor Carney, Secretary Bunting, and Dorrell Green of the Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement provided input on these concerns. 
Governor Carney stated, “It’s clear to me that the most important thing we should do now is focus on making changes that will raise achievement levels for city children. That’s part of my responsibility as governor, Dr. Bunting’s job as secretary of education and your jobs as school leaders and Christina board members. We’re in this together.” 
As our discussions with the state continue on this important topic, we will keep the Christina School District community informed of any opportunities that parents, students, staff, and the public will have to share input. We will also provide updates on any decisions made by the Christina Board of Education. We are committed to staying focused on being “One District” and doing what is best for our students. As Governor Carney said, “We’re in this together.” 
Sincerely,
Richard L. Gregg, Superintendent
Christina School District

You Can’t Make Things Better Until You Fix What’s Broken

In the past week, a light bulb went off in my head.  I’ve been to a lot of education meetings lately.  State Board of Education, ESSA, Special Education Strategic Plan, district board meetings, and so forth.  I’ve seen and met a lot of legislators and candidates.  I’ve seen the old faces and the new.  For the most part, we are all talking about the same thing: problems in education.  Whether it is at a state level or on the ground floor.  At an ESSA meeting, one of the participants at my table was Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty.

He made a very valid point.  We keep talking about education and how to make it better.  We keep throwing ideas into the mix.  We have meetings and task forces and committees and town halls and strategic plans.  We talk ourselves to death.  We don’t take action and we have gotten away from the basics.  I agree with him.

There have been opportunities to act, but they pass by.  Until the next idea comes along.  I’ve met with parents, teachers, district administrators, board members, the DOE, advocates, disability groups, legislators and regular citizens.  There are deep rifts between everyone.  Hurts.  Things happen.  Perceptions are thrown out of whack.  I have seen two of those groups talk about the exact same topic in separate meetings but the tone and feelings about it are wider than the Pacific Ocean.

As much as I rant about the DOE, I do like that they are having these town halls.  I like that people are coming out to them.  But it’s not enough.  Not nearly enough.  What is confusing me is why different states are taking advantage of different timelines for their draft plans.  For example, Delaware wants to get their plan in by the end of March.  In Florida, they are not submitting their plan until the end of July.  The Delaware DOE wants to have their plan in place by the 2017-2018 school year.  Florida’s wouldn’t fully kick in until 2018-2019.  The Delaware DOE wants to have their first draft done by the end of October.  In 37 days.  While it is a draft and would most likely be amended based on public feedback, I don’t like that short of a time frame.

Is that enough time to heal the rifts between the adults involved in education?  Is that enough time for us to decide, as a state, what is best for students?  No.  I don’t like the idea that we are rushing to get a basic plan done, with public comment to possibly tweak that plan, and then again after the end of the year.  I would much rather see something more solid in the beginning and build from there.  I want a foundation that is grounded in fixing the already existing problems with a definitive action plan and a path forward to fix them.  While some may see ESSA as a grand opportunity to get things right, are we rushing to get certain plans that are representative of the more powerful at the expense of the majority?  I believe we are.  Delaware needs more time.  With the vast amounts of money we spend on education, I would think there could and should be a way to get more voices involved.

When many education bills are submitted in the General Assembly, they are symptomatic of larger things that are broken.  If we don’t fix those bigger things, the small solutions don’t always work.  So, I guess, I’m putting this out there for the Delaware DOE, Secretary Godowsky, and the Governor to think about.  What is the harm in waiting another four months to put forth our ESSA plan?  Yes, it’s another year students may not have something.  And many of those things they need now.  But if we squander a gift of time and having true collaboration, at a state-wide level, to get things right, then all the plans in the world won’t help.  It would also give the General Assembly more of a sense of what this will cost over the five and a half months they are in session.  By submitting the plans by the end of March, it will force the General Assembly to most likely scramble to introduce legislation to make it all fit.  Why not let the General Assembly have until the end of June to do their thing while the rest of us, and I mean ALL of us, do our thing?  I have no doubt the DOE has a very good idea of what they would like to see.  But I don’t think the rest of Delaware feels they have been given enough to do this.  We need more time.

This isn’t a rant against the DOE.  It is a heartfelt plea to all involved in education to use the time we could have.  We need to come together, for the kids.

How Can A Teacher Measure Goals For A Student When The DOE Hasn’t Provided The Actual Goals?

A Delaware teacher in the Red Clay Consolidated School District asked the Delaware Dept. of Education for the growth goals for Group 1 educators, which would be English/Language Arts and Math teachers.  Not an unreasonable question given that we are already a month into school.  It would be a pretty neat idea to have teachers measure goals based on the goals the DOE provides them.  Especially since this is a major part of their evaluation each year.  But in the below email exchange between Red Clay Teacher Steve Fackenthall and DOE Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit employees Laura Schneider and Jon Neubauer, something comes out.

doegoals1

doegoals3

 

 

doegoals2

doegoals4

I apologize for the squinty eyes some of you may have experienced looking at the pictures of these emails. I tried to make them bigger, but c’est la vie! But notice how the teacher had very specific concerns about the targets and the response from Schneider at the DOE? As a married man, if my wife came to me with a concern and I said “thanks for sharing”, she wouldn’t take it too well.  I know if my boss addressed something with me at work and I said “thanks for sharing” and walked away, that would NOT be good for me. So why is it that the DOE feels they can talk to teachers like that? I give the DOE a hard time…a lot. But it is this kind of exchange which lends that feeling of a lack of communication a great deal of credibility.  I understand the DOE is busy and they have a clear mandate for what their duties are.  But a bit of empathy and compassion goes a long way.

I know John Carney (should he be elected as Governor) wants to make the DOE less a compliance factory and more of a valued resource for educators.  If I were a DOE employee and I read the teacher’s concern, knowing Carney is probably going to be our next Governor (based on what others have written), I might think twice of giving a “thanks for sharing” response.  Something to the effect of “that is a valid concern.  Maybe we should talk about that” or “can you go into more detail?” would go a loooong way towards mending old wounds teachers feel.

Many teachers feel that the DOE gives off a superior attitude to teachers.  It shouldn’t be like that.  It should be a collaborative relationship.  The very nature of the teacher’s email shouldn’t even be a reality.  Those goals should be sent out before school starts so teachers can start preparing.  Targets are one thing, but actual student’s goals shouldn’t wait until over halfway into a marking period or well into a trimester (which some districts and charters have).  This is the number one complaint I hear about the Delaware DOE.  And I think the lack of transparency is connected to that attitude.  It gives off a vibe of “we will release information when we want to do it, not when YOU want it”.

I have seen many emails from the DOE that came from FOIA requests.  I have seen them totally dog teachers between each other.  I’ve seen a dismissive attitude when teachers or other district staff reach out to them for help.

The DOE is filled with a lot of caring and wonderful people who care about kids.  But the leaders and higher-ups need to look at the perception people have of them.  If not, we can expect more of the same no matter what John Carney or the next Governor plan.  I understand the DOE isn’t going to please everyone all the time.  They get their marching orders from the big boss (and it is not the Secretary no matter what you think).  This same thing does take place in some charters and districts.  Just because you have a loftier position does not mean you are better.  It means you have an opportunity to provide more answers and deal with employees and constituents (whether they are parents, teachers, anyone really) on an equal level.  You might get a bigger paycheck but it should always be about the end goal: helping kids.  And upsetting and frustrating teachers is not the way to go.  They are the front line in education.  I get that politics play a big part, but be human!  I’m sure this sounds hypocritical coming from me, but when I react it isn’t always pretty.  I get upset when I see this kind of thing.  I could have easily written a title like “DOE doesn’t give a crap about teachers” but it has become more than obvious that there is a severe disconnect happening in Delaware education.  This isn’t anything new.  But how can we set a new course if the old matters aren’t addressed or pointed out?  Sitting at the table and hashing it out is good if there is less baggage to deal with.  That baggage needs to be dealt with.

 

The Irony That An Ex DOE Employee Who Is Now A Principal Isn’t Held To Damaging SBAC Part Of Component V

A former Delaware Department of Education employee is now a Principal at a Delaware school district.  As part of  their evaluation, for the  DPAS-II teacher evaluation system, they are measured on five components.  In Component V, it states the following:

If an administrator is not assigned to supervise and/or lead at the grades levels assessed for the Statewide ELA/Math Assessment, he or she shall use Part B1 & B2 to calculate the Student Improvement Component which will be weighted at 50% each, unless administrator and evaluator agree that Part B1 will include 100% of the Student Improvement Component during the Goal-Setting Conference.

A Principal has to be certified to supervise the administration of the Smarter Balanced Statement.  This ex-DOE employee who is now a Principal at a Delaware middle school, and actually worked in areas around accountability, is exempt from having Part A apply to this Princpal’s evaluation because this Principal is NOT certified in this area.  Talk about a complete hypocrisy and the ultimate irony!  So we can consider any DOE employee who enters the school system as a Principal, looking at this through a history lens, as BC, while others who actually do the work and get certified as AD.  Incredible!

And for teachers, the very damaging Component V is still a part of their evaluation.  Even though House Bill 399 passed the General Assembly in the wee hours of July 1st, Governor Markell has yet to sign the bill.  The original recommendation from the DPAS-II Advisory Committee Sub Group was to have teachers and the Principal choose which measures to use and not have Smarter Balanced be an automatic 50% of their evaluation.  But Senator David Sokola turned the bill into a pilot program for three schools and added controversial amendments.  Remember that on Election Day folks!  Markell has given no indication whatsoever if he is even going to sign HB399.  His public schedule is blank this week.  And school starts on Monday for most students.  Way to go Jack!  He is probably out there pimping for Blockchain or some other ludicrous education get rich scheme.

Delaware Principals & Assistant Principals: Which Districts Pay The Big Bucks?

In Delaware, most schools in our districts have a Principal and an Assistant Principal.  Some schools have two Assistant Principals.  For those schools, you can be looking at over $300,000 in annual salaries between the three positions in some situations.  As the Delaware Department of Education guides teachers into accepting “Teacher-Leader” roles, I have to wonder what the end goal is.  Eventually, the role of the classic teacher will be greatly diminished if the current trends in personalized learning continue.  I predict more seasoned teachers will leave the profession because of this.  Is this why we are seeing this big push for more leaders?  Will we see more teachers with a background of Teach For America and Relay Graduate School of Education infiltrate school leadership roles?

In this round of “Delaware Education Funding”, I just looked at traditional school district Principals and Assistant Principals, not the charter schools.  For the very simple reason that only about a 1/3rd of the charters put this role in that category on Delaware Online Checkbook.  The other charter leaders are spread out over many coded categories and it is very hard to know what is what.  But I will get to them, I promise!  These are by district only, not by school.  Exact Principal and Assistant Principals are not readily available unless a newspaper does a story about state employee salaries over $100,0oo.00.

FY2016PrincipalSalariesTotal

This chart shows the total Principal salaries for each school district in FY2016.  For the most part, it follows the total student population of each district with a few exceptions.  What surprised me the most was Capital’s slot on the chart which will become clear in the below picture.  In Delaware, Principal units are also based on the student count as of September 30th of each year, just like teachers.  This provides the state share of principal salaries, so anything left comes from local funds collected through property taxes of the citizens in that district.

FY2016DistrictPerStudentCosts Principals

Seaford is way up on this chart when the total principal salaries are divided by the number of students in the district.  And as predicted, Capital seems to pay their Principals a lot more than other districts based on this chart.  Red Clay, like the previous picture, takes the top spot.  This does not include the principal salaries from the charters within their district that they are the authorizers of.  This chart does not follow student population at all.

FY2016AssistantPrincipalSalariesDistricts

Assistant Principals in Delaware can be just as important as Principals.  In many schools, they handle more of the discipline issues and frequently serve as the school administrator for IEP meetings.  We see, mostly, the same pattern as Principals with overall salaries following the student populations.  Notable exceptions are Cape Henlopen, New Castle County Vo-Tech, and Polytech.  Once again, Seaford is a bit ahead based on their student population compared to the districts two slots below them.

FY2016AssistPrinSalariesPerStudentDistrict

When it comes to per student cost for Assistant Principals, two of the vocational districts leap to the top.  Christina falls to the middle.  We see, on this chart, more of an indication of the economic levels of the citizens within these districts.  Aside from Seaford and Woodbridge, most of the districts near the bottom are in Sussex County.

FY2016CombinedPrin&AssistDistrictSalaries

I wanted to see what happened with these numbers when I combined both the Principal and Assistant Principal salaries. It is almost exactly in line with the first graph for the Principal salaries.

FY2016CombinedPerStudCostPrin&AssistPrin

For the money, it appears New Castle County Vo-Tech is the go-to district if you want to be an administrator at a school, followed closely by Red Clay and Brandywine.  With NCC Vo-Tech at $461 a student for combined Principal and Assistant Principal salaries and Sussex Tech at $224 per student, there sis a world of difference between the two vo-techs in our state.  But once again, money does not always equal quality and performance.  But higher needs can.  Keep in mind, the vo-techs are given a by-line item in the state budget as their funding source.  Are the vo-techs getting favorable treatment with this budget method?  It depends on which county!

As with many situations with school districts, the more buildings you have, the higher the costs to run them.  I see definite trends with these towards socio-economic levels for the three counties in Delaware when you take the vo-techs out of the picture.  This makes sense because a referendum can decide what type of funds school boards can spend on administrators in schools.  This is very different from district administrators, which will be coming soon.  That one will be more complex and may need some outside help on my part.

The Exceptional Delaware Reward, Recognition, Priority, Focus and Focus Plus Schools of 2015

For the first ever Exceptional Delaware Honor Roll, I would like to congratulate the schools and particular grades that went below the 95% “mandatory” participation rate for the Smarter Balanced Assessment. With that being said, there could be a multitude of reasons for that participation rate, and it may not necessarily be because of parent opt-out. It could be because of medical reasons, expulsions, or in extreme cases, maybe a touch of the Bubonic Plague. I noticed a large trend in many districts where the participation rate was higher for ELA than Math. Sometimes it was the reverse, but mostly that. I have to wonder how many parents opted out after their child took the first test. For some districts, they would not have been recognized if it weren’t for many of their juniors saying “See ya” to the Smarter Balanced Assessment. These are the students who are paving the way for the younger ones.  My biggest question is what in the world happened with 4th graders at East Side Charter School?

Christina… all I can say is WOW! You far surpassed my expectations with opt-out. With all the smears and bad looks this district gets from the DOE and whatnot, I am proud to announce Christina School District as the winner of the Opt-Out Performance Fund! They will receive a special gift at their next regular board meeting in recognition of this honor. And Red Clay’s Conrad! Fantastic! Below 50% for 11th graders! You are an inspiration to all!

Under the United States Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the fine folks at the US DOE like to throw things called flexibility waivers at the states.  Under No Child Left Behind, enacted during the second President Bush years, all schools in the country had to be proficient by 2014.  If they weren’t, all hell would break loose.  So under President Obama and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, they threw states a bone called Race To The Top: adapt our Common Core standards, and make a big test based on it, and we will let you slide from the whole No Child Left Behind thing.  Then they started throwing more bones called flexibility waivers.  Hey, do this, and you are safe from No Child Left Behind.  This is what created the most severe school labeling system ever created.  But I am turning it around.

REWARD & RECOGNITION SCHOOLS

All of these schools and grades… I am so proud of them. Parents made a choice, and it showed. While these aren’t anywhere close to New York numbers, it’s a very good start. The ones that are 90% or below get to be REWARD schools. Yeah, it’s one grade, but they went below 95%!  All the Reward Schools got a special prize. The ones between 91-94% are recognition schools for any grade that caused the participation rate to go below 95%. Great job everyone!

Appoquinimink School District:

Appoquinimink High School, 11th Grade ELA: 93%

Appoquinimink High School, 11th Grade Math: 94%

Middletown High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Old State Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 94%

Waters Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 93%

Brandywine School District:

Brandywine High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Concord High School, 11th Grade Math: 94%

Hanby Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 94%

Harlan Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 89% 🙂 🙂

Campus Community School:

7th Grade Math: 93%

Cape Henlopen School District:

Shields Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 92%

Capital School District:

Central Middle School, 7th Grade Math: 94%

Dover High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

East Dover Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 94%

East Dover Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 93%

Fairview Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 89% 🙂 🙂

Fairview Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Christina School District:

Bayard Middle School, 6th Grade Math: 92%

Bayard Middle School, 7th Grade ELA: 92%

Bayard Middle School, 7th Grade Math: 92%

Bayard Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 92%

Brader Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 94%

Brader Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Brookside Elementary School, 5th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

Brookside Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 92%

Brookside Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 86% 🙂 🙂

Brookside Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 79% 🙂 🙂 🙂

Christiana High School, 11th Grade ELA: 84% 🙂 🙂

Christiana High School, 11th Grade Math: 88% 🙂 🙂

Elbert-Palmer Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Gallaher Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 93%

Gallaher Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 93%

Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, 6th Grade Math: 94%

Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, 7th Grade Math: 92%

Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, 8th Grade ELA: 92%

Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 86% 🙂 🙂

Glasgow High School, 11th Grade ELA: 82% 🙂 🙂

Glasgow High School, 11th Grade Math: 82% 🙂 🙂

Keene Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 92%

Keene Elementary School, 5th Grade ELA: 92%

Keene Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 93%

Kirk Middle School, 6th Grade Math: 94%

Maclary Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 92%

Maclary Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 86% 🙂 🙂

Maclary Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

Maclary Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Marshall Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 93%

McVey Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 89% 🙂

McVey Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 87% 🙂

Newark High School, 11th Grade ELA: 55% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Newark High School, 11th Grade Math: 56% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Shue-Medill Middle School, 6th Grade ELA: 94%

West Park Place Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 94%

West Park Place Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 93%

West Park Place Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 83% 🙂 🙂

West Park Place Elementary School, 5th Grade ELA: 89% 🙂 🙂

West Park Place Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 92%

Colonial School District:

Bedford Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 94%

Penn High School, 11th Grade ELA: 92%

Penn High School, 11th Grade Math: 89% 🙂 🙂

Pleasantville Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 92%

Pleasantville Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 92%

Southern Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 93%

Southern Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 92%

Southern Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 86% 🙂 🙂

Southern Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 93%

Delmar School District:

Delmar High School, 11th Grade Math: 93%

East Side Charter School:

4th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

4th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Gateway Lab School:

3rd Grade Math: 90% 🙂

4th Grade ELA: 92%

4th Grade Math: 93%

7th Grade Math: 92%

Indian River School District:

Sussex Central High School, 11th Grade ELA: 93%

Sussex Central High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Laurel School District:

Laurel Senior High School, 11th Grade ELA: 94%

Laurel Senior High School, 11th Grade Math: 93%

Milford School District:

Milford Senior High School, 11th Grade ELA: 88% 🙂

Milford Senior High School, 11th Grade Math: 88% 🙂

Moyer:

7th Grade ELA: 88% 🙂 🙂

7th Grade Math: 88% 🙂 🙂

11th Grade ELA: 65% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

11th Grade Math: 69% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

New Castle County Vo-Tech School District:

Delcastle Technical High School, 11th Grade Math: 94%

Hodgson Vocational Technical H.S., 11th Grade ELA: 91%

Hodgson Vocational Technical H.S., 11th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

St. Georges Technical High School, 11th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

St. Georges Technical High School, 11th Grade Math: 87% 🙂 🙂

Polytech School District:

Polytech High School, 11th Grade ELA: 94%

Polytech High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Positive Outcomes Charter School:

7th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Prestige Academy:

7th Grade Math: 94%

Reach Academy For Girls:

4th Grade ELA: 75% 🙂 🙂 🙂

4th Grade Math: 75% 🙂 🙂 🙂

6th Grade ELA: 92%

8th Grade ELA: 78% 🙂 🙂 🙂

Red Clay Consolidated School District:

A.I. DuPont High School, 11th Grade ELA: 63% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

A.I. DuPont High School, 11th Grade Math: 64% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

A.I. DuPont Middle School, 8th Grade ELA: 94%

A.I. DuPont Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 94%

Brandywine Springs School, 8th Grade Math: 93%

Cab Calloway School of the Arts, 11th Grade ELA: 84% 🙂 🙂

Cab Calloway School of the Arts, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Conrad Schools of Science, 8th Grade ELA: 94%

Conrad Schools of Science, 11th Grade ELA: 40% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Conrad Schools of Science, 11th Grade ELA: 47% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Heritage Elementary School, 5th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

Heritage Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 89% 🙂 🙂

Seaford School District:

Seaford Central Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 92%

Seaford Central Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 92%

Seaford Middle School, 6th Grade Math: 94%

Seaford Senior High School, 11th Grade ELA: 93%

Seaford Senior High School, 11th Grade Math: 89% 🙂 🙂

Smyrna School District:

North Smyrna Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 94%

The below schools…they didn’t go below the 95% participation mark in any grade for either ELA or Math on the Smarter Balanced Assessment. But there were quite a few that were right at the 95% mark in some grades, and also at 96%. So we can tip the scales by getting the word out. These are the 2015-2016 schools where there are some opt-outs, but we need a lot more. Some of the charters may have only had one or two opt-outs in one grade. But that one opt-out parent can spread the word! But these schools are the 2015-2016 Focus Schools or Focus Districts. If they are a charter school, they did not dip below 95% in any grade. For school districts, I just picked certain schools who hovered around the 99% mark. For one school, it just can’t ever get out of being labeled no matter what it does! This is your chance Stubbs! If it’s in red, it’s a Focus Plus school. That means they had maybe a handful of kids opt-out. Which is good, but not earth-shattering. We need those handful of parents who opted their kids out to spread the word!

NEED TO GET THE WORD OUT ABOUT OPT-OUT FOR THESE FOCUS AND FOCUS PLUS SCHOOLS
 

Allen Frear Elementary School (Caesar Rodney) (Focus Plus)

Banneker Elementary School (Milford)

Bunker Hill Elementary School (Appoquinimink)

Clayton Elementary School (Smyrna) (Focus Plus)

Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security

Delaware College Prep

Delaware Military Academy

Delmar Middle School (Delmar) (Focus Plus)

Family Foundations Academy

Hartly Elementary School (Capital) (Focus Plus)

Howard High School of Technology (New Castle County Vo-Tech)

Indian River High School (Indian River)

Kuumba Academy

Lake Forest School District

Lancashire Elementary School (Brandywine)

Las Americas ASPIRA Academy (Focus Plus)

Lombardy Elementary School (Brandywine) (Focus Plus)

Long Neck Elementary School

Lord Baltimore Elementary School (Focus Plus)

Maple Lane Elementary School (Brandywine) (Focus Plus)

MOT Charter School (Focus Plus)

Mount Pleasant Elementary School (Brandywine)

Newark Charter School (Focus Plus)

New Castle Elementary School (Colonial) (Focus Plus)

Oberle Elementary School (Christina)

Odyssey Charter School (Focus Plus)

Providence Creek Academy

Pulaski Elementary School (Christina)

Showell Elementary School (Indian River) (Focus Plus)

Silver Lake Elementary School (Appoquinimink)

Smyrna Elementary School (Smyrna) (Focus Plus)

Stubbs Elementary School (Christina)

Sussex Academy (Focus Plus)

Sussex Technical School District

Thomas Edison Charter School (Focus Plus)

W.B. Simpson Elementary School (Caesar Rodney) (Focus Plus)

W. Reily Brown Elementary School (Caesar Rodney) (Focus Plus)

Woodbridge School District

Below are the 2015-2016 Priority Schools. The three charters had NO opt-outs, along with the other schools. For the charters, one was on Formal Review and was probably scared that one opt-out would shut them down so they allegedly told parents it was not allowed. Another one has the lowest of minorities (aside from Asian), special education, and low-income students in the entire state. And the 3rd… their Head of School spoke out about opt-out at the House Education Committee meeting on House Bill 50 so this truly doesn’t shock me. Other Montessori schools I’ve spoken too were somewhat shocked and believe opposing parental rights like this goes against the whole Montessori model. If anyone from any of these schools did opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, please let me know cause that means something is seriously wrong. Because >99% is pretty damn close to 100%. And you can’t have 100% with one single opt-out.

If I had to guess, a lot of these schools are telling parents they can’t opt their kid out. Or the school has 100% drank the Kool-Aid the DOE gives them and gave it to all the parents. I know some of the leaders of these schools, and some are no-nonsense leaders. Some are known to be very tough. Don’t let them intimidate you. These are my extra special schools this year. Under priority status, they will be watched very closely. Unlike the DOE I won’t make them pick new leaders and fire half their teachers. And I won’t make them sign a Memorandum of Understanding that makes no sense whatsoever by a certain date. I won’t tell them comply or die either. But they are Priority Schools for opt-out, and this is a Code Red alert for Delaware! This is just plain unacceptable…  They get a very special label in recognition of two very special legislators who opposed House Bill 50 the loudest (and they were also the Chairs of the House and Senate Education Committee).

THE EARL JAQUES AND DAVE SOKOLA PRIORITY SCHOOLS OF DELAWARE

Academy of Dover 😦

Charter School of Wilmington 😦

First State Montessori Academy 😦

Lake Forest North Elementary School (Lake Forest) 😦

Lake Forest South Elementary School (Lake Forest) 😦

Richardson Park (Elementary School) (Red Clay) 😦

Star Hill Elementary School (Caesar Rodney)  😦

South Dover Elementary School (Capital) 😦

Sussex Technical High School (Sussex Tech) 😦

For our school principals and superintendents and charter leaders: I’m watching you. I’ve been watching you. The DOE is on the stage, putting on their show. You are all in the audience, and you are literally paying for their performance. Rodel and Vision and the Delaware Business Roundtable are providing all the lighting and special effects, with equipment bought from all the corporate education reform companies around the country. I see the State Board providing the symphony. The legislators are paying all the bills and making sure everything is up to snuff (or in some situations allowing the audience to be robbed blind).  And the director, none other than Delaware Governor Jack Markell. His assistant went exit stage left, but we are waiting to see what his new guy does. And me, I’m the guy up on the catwalk watching the whole thing unfold. I see all of it. I had to get rid of some of the cobwebs up there to see better, but I can see things very clearly right now.  And guess what, I’m not alone.  I’m inviting parents all the time to watch too.  And more and more are watching the play.  They are telling me “hey, you see that guy over there, he told me I couldn’t opt-out my son” or “they told me I have to get a doctor’s note” or sometimes it’s a parent/teacher telling me “our superintendent says only he gets to decide who opts out.”

As of this very moment, I am giving you all amnesty. You are pardoned if I wrote negative things about you concerning opt-out last year.  Some of you actually came through in a big way on the Accountability Framework Working Group and turned the scales on the DOE.  We have a clean slate.  Don’t get all offended if your school is on this list.  The DOE has this information up too, but I’m just reversing the labels for true accountability purposes.  The good news: if your school is a Focus, Focus Plus, or Priority School, you can easily get out of it in the Spring.  All of you will be hearing from me very soon.  But just so you know, all of us on the catwalk are watching…

To all the very brave parents who opted their child out last Spring, I want to say Thank You. You made a very brave decision, and I salute you. Your job now is to do the same this year, no matter what threats or bullying gestures are thrown your way. Hopefully House Bill 50 will be vetoed by the time Smarter Balanced rolls around again next Spring, but if not do what you did this year. While some may have looked down on you for that decision, stand by your convictions. Even if it was in a “high-performing” school. And spread the word. The doors of conversation will start to open up in the coming week when parents get their kids results. You don’t have to worry about that. Cause your child is a not-having-to-take-the-test rock star, and you made the right decision.

If your school isn’t on this list, you can check it all out here:

http://www.doe.k12.de.us/cms/lib09/DE01922744/Centricity/Domain/111/Attachment3%20SchoolandCharterPerformanceParticipationUpdated0917.pdf

Back To School Message For Students, Parents, Teachers & Schools

In Delaware, all public school students are back in school.  This will be a very interesting year ahead for all of us.  The invasion of corporate education reform will be felt the strongest this year.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment results will be released on a statewide level in a couple days and the results will go to parents in a few weeks.  Priority and focus schools will feel the pain of submitting plans to the Delaware Department of Education.  Opt-out will become bigger and more complicated.  Schools will lose essential funding due to budget issues in our state government that will continue to go unaddressed.  Reports will come out showing how some charters in this state should practice certain application tactics.  Parents and teachers will complain about things.  The DOE will make it look like everything is awesome when they come out with press releases.  Governor Markell will most likely have about 20 weekly messages and 30 public comments about how great education is but how much we need to do to make Delaware the best state in the country for education.  A new Secretary of Education will decide if the DOE should stay on course or course-correct.  The 148th General Assembly will debate education issues for our children and the DOE and their reform buddies will lobby the legislators for their own agendas.  Parents will become increasingly vocal about hotbed education issues in our state.  Common Core will be a common pain for students and parents.  Wilmington schools will be the front page headline for most schools in the state.  Vouchers won’t go anywhere.  Most of the people in the state will still have no clue who Rodel is.  I will keep blogging about all of this.  But at the end of the day, it’s about our children.  We all need to keep them safe and keep them learning.  The rest is just detail.  Best of luck to all involved in any way with education this year!

WEAC’s Tony Allen Is The Busiest Man in Delaware!

The Wilmington Education Advisory Committee is completely transparent with their meetings with individuals outside the committee.  I applaud this level of transparency!  Tony Allen, the Chair of WEAC, has been extremely busy.  When does this man sleep?

The Conversation

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, about this little thing called education in Delaware.  Want to know what I hear?  A lot of screaming.  A lot of people stamping their feet on the ground saying you can’t do this.  I’m guilty of it.  We all are.  Whether it’s the DOE, Governor Markell, the teachers, the superintendents, the boards, the charters, the legislators, whoever.  Tempers are flaring, and everyone is up in arms.  We can sit here all day and talk about what hasn’t been done, or what we think will happen.  We can say our way is the best way.  But guess what’s not going to change… the everyday reality of the students in this state.  We can form committees or a task force or whatever you want to call it.  It will drag things out, kick the can down the road, and someone else will have to pick it up.  And there we are, right back at the same place we started from.  Do I have an easy solution?  Probably not.  Nobody does.  We can keep throwing stones at each other.  Whether it’s done with a state board resolution, a vote of no confidence, or a blog post.  But guess what?  None of it is working.  We have eight sides in this battle: the teachers, the parents, the DOE, the districts, the administrators, the charters, the politicians and the communities.  Actually nine if you want to count the students.  But they aren’t a side, they are the victims.

I’ve taken many sides in this war, but at the end of the day, I have to ask: is anything better?  Have I improved education in Delaware?  Nope.  Not one iota.  If anything, I’ve made it worse.  I’ve brought fire down in regards to a standardized test, preached from the heavens, and parents are opting out.  I think that’s a good thing, but the reality is it is not going away any time soon.  It can’t.  Too many of the sides are for it.  The big and powerful ones.  But here is the deal, we need to get together.  Not in one hour meetings every couple of weeks.  Not in a board meeting where things can or can’t be said.  All sides need to get together.  There needs to be a whole week or weekend thing.  Where appropriate stakeholders get together and hash all this out.  We will scream, we will fight, and it will get ugly.  But no one can leave.  And when the fire of anger dies down to a few smoldering embers, that’s when the conversation starts.  We talk, we strategize, we form ideas, we find out what’s working and what isn’t.  And we do it together.  Cause if any of these sides do this without all of the others, nothing else matters.  Then it’s just noise.

Certain things aren’t going away any time soon: standardized tests, charters, school districts, opt out, choice, bullying, special education, crime, poverty, lack of funding, behavior issues, teacher evaluations, and anger.  All need to come to the table and deal with these issues on EQUAL standing.  This can’t be about one side saying they are more important, cause that doesn’t work.  People will need to eat some crow and give up some things.  If it means a consensus and taking on the Feds, then so be it.  If it means teachers have to give up what they feel are some inalienable rights, then so be it.  If it means parents have to be more tolerant about things, then so be it.  If politicians have to give up their own political ambitions with education, then so be it.  All sides must be willing to listen and collaborate.  We need to get real, and we need to do it NOW.  If you don’t think this is a crisis with immediate attention, then you need to open your eyes.  If you think the Delaware Way is appropriate for the students in this state, open your eyes.  Let’s get all the cards on the table so everyone can see them, and let’s start to fix things.  Adult egos and students don’t mix.

Governor Markell Wants A Conversation But Parents MUST Be An Equal Party

From the Delaware.gov website, my thoughts on the bottom.

Governor Initiates Statewide Plan for Future Education Offerings

Date Posted: Thursday, March 19th, 2015
Categories:  News Office of Governor Markell

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Announces review of public schools and programs to address unmet student needs

Dover, DE – Governor Markell today announced a needs assessment and strategic planning process for the future of Delaware public schools, including charter, vocational-technical, and magnet schools. The State will review current opportunities available to students, analyze trends, and quantify areas of unmet needs for Delaware families.

“Many amazing schools and programs across the state are offering students diverse and innovative opportunities to meet their individual needs,” said Markell. “However, not all of our students have access to the programs of their choice. Many schools are oversubscribed and should be expanded or replicated. At the same time, we don’t want our districts to start new programs, and we don’t want to open new charter and magnet schools, if families aren’t asking for what they offer.

“This effort will ensure that state and district plans are designed to best meet individual students’ needs and spark their interests.”

Launching the effort during a meeting of the State Board of Education, the Governor specifically referenced the tremendous progress made at Vo Tech schools in each county, noting that they don’t have the capacity to serve all of the students who select them in the school choice process.

Other trends include four new middle and high schools that will open in the City of Wilmington this fall, reflecting the desire for new options in the city. In addition, programs focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills that are needed for jobs in growing industries, like those offered at Conrad Schools of Science, as well as the college prep courses at Mount Pleasant High School, have garnered increased interest. However, no process has existed to systematically ensure that more students can gain from the experiences they want at traditional, magnet, and charter schools.

The strategic plan developed through the Governor’s Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities for Delaware Students will quantify programs where demand exceeds the state’s capacity and analyze demographic trends to project future needs. That will help the state, school districts, and charter school operators know where and how to invest, from which dual-enrollment programs are most valuable and popular to the types of curriculum from which more students would benefit.

“For the past two years, the State Board of Education has referenced the need for the state to develop a comprehensive analysis of our portfolio of public schools, a thorough needs assessment to identify strengths, weaknesses, saturations, as well as opportunities for success and innovation,” said Teri Quinn Grey, President of the State Board of Education President. “We believe that such an analysis would aid the state in the development of this strategic plan, as well as be a useful tool for local boards and school leaders in deciding school programming decisions, facility decisions, and other educational opportunities. It also will be a tool to be utilized by policy leaders, community members, and businesses to evaluate opportunities for further investment and expansion in Delaware.”

The review announced today was inspired by a proposal by the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee (WEAC) – a group formed by the Governor last year that has urged the state to be smarter and more strategic about the growth of educational opportunities, particularly for charter schools in Wilmington. Markell said he agreed with the Committee’s recommendation, but also believes we can’t limit this effort to one city or county, or to charter schools alone.

“It can benefit our education system statewide,” said Markell. “All schools are part of the solution.”

WEAC Chair Tony Allen voiced support for expanding on the group’s recommendation.

“There is no question that charter schools will remain a critical part of public education in Delaware and that many students throughout the state will be served by them, and in many cases served well,” said Allen. “However, we cannot continue to operate two systems with little interaction and coordination and expect the quality benefits that all of our children deserve. It is our hope that a plan for charter schools extends itself to public education in Delaware broadly and forces stronger collaboration across the traditional district, charter and vo-tech boundaries.”

Representative Charles Potter Jr. (D-Wilmington North), who the Governor recognized at the event for his advocacy in establishing WEAC as an opportunity for members of the community to have a stronger voice on issues involving education of Wilmington children, voiced his support of the plan as well.

“I’m in support of the governor’s efforts to undertake this statewide strategic plan,” said Rep. Potter. “I feel strongly that we have to take a comprehensive look at what is happening in Wilmington and address those issues as well.”

It sounds like someone is realizing education is a mess in this state.  I think the people are the ones who need to control this conversation though.  For every person in this group, you need to have an EQUAL and state-wide amount of parents.  And not parents who are in this group or that group.  I’ve been to meetings like that.  We need down to earth, grassroots parents.  It is very easy to pick out the good and capitalize on that, but if you aren’t looking at the bad, the rot will still be there.

Nobody knows children like a child’s parent.  I defy you to find anyone that knows more than a parent that loves their child.  I think we are willing to hear a conversation, but we want to be an EQUAL part of it.  Otherwise, this just isn’t going to work Governor Markell.

 

How Are Delaware Students Benefitting From Superintendent Salaries?

It is not Mark Murphy.  This honor belongs to Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick.  According to a Delawareonline report issued today with a top ten list of the state’s highest paid employees, Holodick made $215,043.72 in 2014.  Even our own Governor Markell ranked at 85th on the list with his income of $171,000.03.  This seems like a very large salary for a district superintendent.

In 2014, Delaware Online listed all state employees making over $100,000.  This list can be found here: http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/local/2014/04/05/data-top-state-salaries/7312283/

I went through the list for each charter and school district listed, and pulled out the following:

Noel Rodriguez, Academy of Dover, $119,432

Matthew Burrows, Appoquinimink, $152,660, 31 over $100k

Mark Holodick, Brandywine, $214,176, 71 over $100k

Kevin Fitzgerald, Caesar Rodney, $162,547, 26 over $100k

Robert Fulton, Cape Henlopen, $154,821, 32 over $100k

Michael Thomas, Capital, $199,564, 35 over $100k

Samuel Paoli, Charter School of Wilmington, $116,368, 3 over $100k

Freeman Williams, Christina, $192,088, 108 over $100k

Dorothy Linn, Colonial, $185,724, 54 over $100k

Charles Hughes, DE Academy of Public Safety, $129,433

Angela Dennis, Delaware College Prep, $115,448

Anthony Pullela, Delaware Military Academy, $111,777

David Ring, Delmar, $139,260, 3 over $100k

Mark Murphy, DOE, $160,144.92, 58 over $100k

Lamont Browne, EastSide Charter, $143,633

Tennell Brewington, Family Foundations Academy, $127,418, 2 over $100k

Susan Bunting, Indian River, $165,885, 21 over $100k

David Curry, Lake Forest, $147,374, 12 over $100k

John Ewald, Laurel, $138,660

Phyllis Koehl, Milford, $146,897, 14 over $100k

Linda Jennings, MOT Charter, $125,845, 3 over $100k

Victoria Gehrt, New Castle Co. Vo-Tech, $184,433, 43 over $100k

Greg Meece, Newark Charter School, $153,788, 4 over $100k

Nick Manolakos, Odyssey Charter, $115,423

Deborah Zych, Polytech, $152,365, 8 over $100k

Audrey Erschen, Providence Creek, $112,679

Mervin Daugherty, Red Clay, $174,931, 103 over $100k

Shawn Joseph, Seaford, $172,502.24, 12 over $100k

Deborah Wicks, Smyrna, $151,645, 17 over $100k

Allen Stafford, Sussex Academy, $106,604

Allen Lathbury, Sussex Tech, $164,361, 14 over $100k

Salome Thomas-EL, Thomas Edison Charter, $133,486

Heath Chasanov, Woodbridge, $135,544, 7 over $100k

It’s become obvious the number of districts and charter schools in Delaware has caused a great deal of money to go towards administrative positions.  For a state with three counties, we have 19 school districts, and many charters.  Even Matt Denn, now Attorney General, spoke out on this issue in 2012:

“A report issued by Lt. Gov. Matt Denn in 2012 found that if all school districts spent as much money on “direct educational services” as the top five, the state would free up an addition $2.1 million for classrooms.

“We’re still spending too much on administration versus classroom, both at the state level and at the district level,” said Denn, adding that districts should explore ways to share administrative functions.”

In my opinion, I completely agree with Denn’s position on this, as written by Matthew Albright for the News Journal in a link found here: http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/local/2014/04/05/state-employees-earned-k-last-year/7355333/

This state has an extreme amount of bloated salaries, but I don’t see the benefits for this money going to the students.  Perhaps it’s time for more than just a look at Wilmington’s school districts…

 

 

Hi, this is clarity calling. Is Jack Markell there?

I’m hearing superintendents, principals, teachers, parents and students are all getting multiple different stories about opt out from districts, the newspapers, radio, social media, the Governor’s office, Legislative Hall, schools, blogs, email, and all the rest.

Here is what I am hearing the most.  Parent opts out, gets either the DOE recommended letter or an email from the principal, saying nope, can’t opt out here (I picture them saying this like the kid on the bus in Forrest Gump when he tells him “Can’t sit here”).  Parent either folds and kid is going to take the test, or notches it up a bit.  The authority figure (not the parent), folds and tells the parent “Go ahead, opt out.  That’s what the DOE wants us to say.”

Can’t we have a civilized and consistent opt out movement for crying out loud?  Is that too much to ask for?  Can’t the DOE or Governor Markell give some kind of guidance on this?  We know they don’t like it, but it’s happening, and they might as well be more successful at stopping the wind from blowing at this point.  Do your jobs!  Why am I the only one making it clear: Parents don’t need permission to opt out!!!!  Just stop!!!!!

Red Clay Principals, It’s Not Up To You To “Let” Parents Opt Out, Just Stop…

We know.  We know all about the funding threats, and the “Oh, you’re the first person who has told me this” when I have seen multiple parents give YOUR name, at numerous Red Clay schools.  It’s gotten to the point of embarrassment, not only for your schools, but your self-respect.  Just stop.  Parents aren’t dumb.  They are not stupid.  They know what is best for their children.  The very fact that you want to talk them out of it in one-on-one meetings shows the DOE is hammering your district hard.  Why do you think that is?  It’s cause they are scared out of their pants that opt out will get bigger than it ALREADY has.  I’ve now heard from a few people that Mark Murphy, the Secretary of Education himself here in the First State, has been telling districts that after parents opt out, see the DOE template, and still want to opt out, to “let” them.  But he wants the parents to not spread the word and keep quiet.  Principals in Delaware: do you serve students or a bureaucracy that is over-paid and filled with people who don’t know the first thing about education?  Stop serving the Department, and start looking out for your students.  Cause the DOE sure as hell isn’t.  You are all tired of this testing crap.  Let the parents do what they need to do for their children.