Delaware DOE “Honors” 13 Schools For Doing Good On High-Stakes Testing….

On Friday, the Delaware Department of Education and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky had a little party at Dover Air Force Base Middle School.  What was the occasion?  Honoring schools who do good on standardized testing when it comes down to it.  I’m sure these schools worked hard and the students did well on these high-stakes tests, but once again, the demographics for a lot of these schools aren’t the same as, say, Warner Elementary School or Bancroft in Wilmington.  Sure, they get a lot more money cause they are “priority” schools, but the effect is horrible and tarnishes the school districts they are in.  But the DOE just ignores that, as they always do, and throws accolades and parties for the runs “making a difference”… I’m getting so sick of this.  It’s getting old real fast…  And Newark Charter School?  Seriously?  Again?

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Contact Alison May  (302) 735-4006

STATE HONORS REWARD, RECOGNITION SCHOOLS

 

Thirteen schools from across the state were honored today for their students’ academic achievements.

 

Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky lauded the 12 winners of the state’s Reward and Recognition School awards during a ceremony at Dover Air Force Base Middle School; a 13th building was named a School of Continued Excellence.

Godowsky recognized the dedication and hard work of the entire school communities,  the educators, students, parents and community partners whose collaboration helped the schools succeed.

“This is the kind of progress only achieved through dedicated efforts by many thoughtful educators and school community supporters,” Godowsky said. “It takes the partnership of families, teachers, school and district leaders and community supporters. I congratulate the students for their hard work and perseverance and thank the professional educators and leaders who supported them on their journey to achieve excellence.

“We now have the opportunity to learn from these successes and see how we can replicate this achievement in other schools across our state.”

These Reward and Recognition School awards, which carry an $8,000 prize for each school, were created by legislation passed by the Delaware General Assembly in 2009. The awards are given (a) to schools whose students are performing at an exceptionally high level, particularly those schools with large percentages of students coming from low-income households and (b) to schools that have succeeded in closing the achievement gap for students such as low-income students, students from minority groups and students with disabilities.

For 2015, there were two Reward and 10 Recognition schools that will receive $8,000 each. Funding for the awards comes from the state’s School Improvement funds. Additionally, there is one School of Continued Excellence that was honored as a Recognition School last year and had outstanding performance again this year but is not eligible for a financial award again until 2016. 

Godowsky was joined by the 13 principals and eight superintendents of the winning schools, along with students, parents, teachers and other administrators. The winning schools have much discretion in deciding how to spend the money. As in years past, each school will appoint a committee (with administration, teacher, support staff and parent representation) to determine how the award will be used.

Reward Schools are Title I schools (federal classification based on percentage of low income population) are identified for being either highest performing or high progress.

 

Recognition Schools  are chosen for exceptional performance and/or closing the achievement gap. Both Title I and non-Title I schools can qualify. Two of the schools are also Title I Distinguished school awardees. They are Title I schools that met the criteria for Recognition School that had not been Title I Distinguished school awardees in the past two years.

 

Schools of Continued Excellence are schools that have received state awards during 2014 and continue to qualify for Reward or Recognition School distinction in 2015 are named Schools of Continued Excellence to recognize their sustained accomplishments. They will be eligible for funds again next year if they meet the Reward or Recognition School qualifications.

The 2015 winners are below. Included with each is information provided by its leaders on how their schools achieved.

·         Brick Mill Elementary School, Appoquinimink School District, Recognition School: While the school’s success can’t be attributed to a single program or initiative, establishing and maintaining a positive school culture with high expectations has had a profound impact on academic and social outcomes. Each day begins with Morning Meeting, a component of Responsive Classroom. This practice encourages children to express their ideas and take risks. It has fostered improved academic and social skills, communication, empathy, and rapport with peers and teachers. There’s a collective excitement about learning, and improved attitudes about school. The school recognizes and rewards students’ academic and behavioral accomplishments through its Dolphin Pride PBS Program. Teachers engage in ongoing professional development to support utilizing best practices in the classroom and embed Learning Focused Strategies into daily Common Core lessons. The school is successful because its amazing students, staff, parents, and community work as a team.

·         Dover Air Force Base Middle School, Caesar Rodney School District, Recognition School: The success of the school is rooted in its excellent parental support and an unparalleled student work ethic. These factors are combined with an outstanding staff that provides research-based, engaging and effective classroom instruction each and every day. In addition, a multi-faceted intervention program is in place that is designed to allow struggling learners to fill in their learning gaps. These interventions not only concentrate on re-teaching critical material, but also focus on pre-teaching high-priority core content that is essential for student understanding. Finally, differentiated instruction period for math and language arts provides students additional support to ensure students reach their maximum potential.

·         Howard High School, New Castle County Vocational Technical School District, School of Continued Excellence: In 2010, Howard was named one of the state’s four original Partnership Zone schools due to underperformance in English and math on the state assessment. Since that time, Howard has shown remarkable progress. Howard’s remarkable progress has been made possible through the outstanding work of its very talented staff with the ever-present support of the district office. The dynamic staff has a strong belief in students, high level content and pedagogical knowledge, and a “can-do” spirit that makes anything seem possible in the school and for its students. What is particularly remarkable about Howard’s success and makes the school particularly proud is that the school is succeeding with students who need it most. Howard is considered a high-need school and has many at-risk students. Despite nationwide statistics to the contrary, Howard has been able to reach remarkable achievement levels with a high percentage of minority and economically disadvantaged students.

·         Lake Forest North Elementary School, Lake Forest School District, Recognition School: Students’ success is a direct result of the strong commitment of the administration, educational staff, school personnel, parents and the students. Dedicated and seasoned administrators guide and promote the efforts of highly qualified teachers and support staff. Their efforts are reinforced by actively involved custodians and school personnel, as well as a proactive Parent Teacher Organization. The success would not be possible without the school’s hardworking students, many of whom overcome economic and physical adversity, to meet the challenges of today’s changing academic environment. Data-driven instructional practices, aligned to the Common Core and refined through vertical and horizontal alignment, are supported by innovative technology and innovative teaching aides, to provide for the individual needs of every student.

·         Lake Forest South Elementary School, Lake Forest School District, Recognition School: Students pledge every day to be on track for success, and it is embedded in the culture of the school. South emphasizes teaching and learning, which demonstrates a climate of positive and professional student-teacher-school relationship as well as social and emotional skills training, civic education, and positive support for learning. Data is studied to address students’ needs to grow the students academically, behaviorally and culturally. Staff is encouraged to build relationships with their students and not only learn how they learn, but learn their culture as well. The PBS program also impacts student achievement. Staff meet and discuss data and identify those students who need interventions as well as those teachers who may need assistance in classroom management strategies. If a student feels safe, he or she will perform better in classes, and with the support of all stakeholders, there is a culture of support.

·         Lancashire Elementary School, Brandywine School District, Recognition School: Lancashire has 18 different languages represented from students from around the world. The school acknowledges and celebrates its diversity and credits its achievement to its unique partnership with families and the stake that every staff member has in each child. From families, secretaries, teachers, administrators, custodians, and other staff members, the school community is committed to providing the love, care, and mentoring that all students need to develop the necessary skills to be good citizens. The success with the 2015 test scores is a result of teachers and administrators raising the bar for all students , analyzing student data, differentiating instruction, and providing the necessary interventions and enrichment activities to address our students’ academic needs from kindergarten through fifth grade. The school believes that every student has the ability to learn and also makes an effort to teach students that they are also responsible for their learning.

·         Olive B. Loss Elementary School, Appoquinimink School District, Recognition School: Academic excellence in all curricular areas is the goal of Olive B. Loss School. The faculty and staff at Olive B. Loss School work to ensure that all students are successful and reach their full potential. The school incorporates instructional strategies that provide students with a variety of experiences, including interactive and hands on activities. Teachers work cooperatively to plan and assess instruction that provides the foundation for academic rigor. Olive B. Loss School is fortunate to have a very involved and active parent community and appreciates the volunteer hours parents contribute to the school.

·         Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, Christina School District, Title I Distinguished School and Recognition School: Marshall has a wonderful community of teachers, parents, and students who work together towards the CORE Values of the school: C= Caring Community, O = Overall Respect, R= Responsibility, and E = Excellent Effort. Marshall utilizes every opportunity during the school day to work with students in small groups to provide intervention. Staff members analyze student data to identify needs that are specific to individual students. During Professional Learning Communities, teams work together to create an instructional pathway for student success in both Reading, Writing, and Social Emotional areas. Marshall has a very diverse population including a 10% population from India and a newly created Visually Impaired Program. The students with visual impairments are mainstreamed into the regular classroom and receive braille instruction and other supports over the course of their day. Marshall has kids at the core of all decision making. The school does what’s best for students and for their success.

·         MOT Charter School, Middletown, Reward School: MOT Charter School helps every student reach his or her potential by setting high expectations and fostering a school-wide growth mindset. The school was an early adopter of STEM in middle school and established a student-centered, blended-learning environment in its new high school. Focused on developing the whole child, the instructional program is designed to challenge and engage students in thoughtful inquiry, problem solving, and analysis. Staff continuously analyze a variety of student data to ensure that the program is responsive to student needs and growth. Parents not only support classroom teachers, coach, and chaperone field trips, but they also provide small group instruction, serve on policy committees, and are key participants in the school’s hiring process.

·         Newark Charter School, Newark, Title I Distinguished School and Recognition School: The guiding vision is that all children will achieve when they are challenged, supported, respected, and motivated. This is the school’s “North Star.” The school’s gap students have extra obstacles to overcome. When a student struggles, the child is surrounded with a sort of “Academic Swat Team” made up of reading specialists, instructional interventionists, special educators, counselors, Homework Club moderators, teachers, and volunteers who give their time for such activities as “Lunch and Learn” sessions, before-school Math Academy, tutoring or small group pullout instruction. What completes these efforts is involving parents. Students need to know that they have a teacher in school who cares about them like a parent, and a parent at home who understands their role as a teacher. Whether it’s one of the kindergarten children or a high school upperclassman, students know that they are never alone. Finally, all of this creates a special culture where the students, themselves, reach out to one another to see how they can help their peers.

·         Southern Delaware School of the Arts, Indian River School District, Recognition School: Students participate in high-level, creative thinking on a daily basis. Students perform, translate music, critique art, analyze feelings and expression, and solve real-world challenges. Through a focus on the Arts, students quickly become motivated to succeed academically. The scores last year are a reflection of the students and staff who all put in hours and hours of hard work centered on experiencing learning. Motivating students to enjoy learning and desire knowledge was an emphasis. Students must touch, feel, and relate to what they are learning. Through careful and hard work, the school has created an environment where students want to succeed and where teachers nurture that desire for personal success through relationship. Many of the teachers volunteer extra time with students and their families anytime it will help a student accomplish their goals.

 

·         Sussex Academy, Georgetown, Reward School: Many years ago, the faculty of Sussex Academy determined that literacy (reading, writing, speaking, listening, and presenting) is the instructional focus for the school. Unwavering attention to this school-wide focus has affected student achievement. For example, last year all teachers taught the same process (CSET) for presenting an “argument.” This instruction occurred across all content areas. School leaders are proud of Sussex Academy’s students for embracing high expectations and its teachers for being amazing educators. The school stays focused on its belief that its students will “Experience, Explore, Excel.”

·         Kathleen H. Wilbur Elementary, Colonial School District, Recognition School: A positive school culture for both students and staff is a key factor in making the school a success. Monthly, students participate in “iCommunity” meetings with the principal to help instill strong character traits, such as perseverance and leadership. A strong vision that is centered on the core ideas of rigor, relevance and relationships guides all professional development and building-based decisions. Co-teaching classrooms, with two teachers and a mix of regular and special education students, have been created at each grade level to provide support and expertise to struggling students. A STEM Lab and Makerspace in the library and an innovative exploratory model allow students to participate in weeklong projects in art, music, physical education, technology, and STEM. A building-wide focus on developing a growth mindset has been infused throughout classrooms, cafeterias, and assemblies.

Delaware Today Article Has Overwhelming Bias For Wilmington Charter Schools

The November issue of Delaware Today hit the stands, and controversy surrounding an article on Wilmington charter schools is already beginning.  The article, written by Melissa Jacobs, does not even mention the four surrounding traditional school districts: Christina, Red Clay, Brandywine or Colonial.  It gives the illusion that these students would be complete failures unless they attend a charter with Teach For America corps members.  It is highly disrespectful of the hard work traditional school districts do for these students.

Any article that props up the Charter School of Wilmington as the greatest school in Delaware is going to immediately be on my radar.

Other kids find it in other charters. Three of them—Academia Antonia Alonso, Kuumba Academy and Great Oaks—are housed in the Community Education Building on French Street. Delaware Met just opened its doors nearby. All-boys Prestige Academy is older. It’s true that some of the city’s charter schools have stumbled. But others have excelled, like the Charter School of Wilmington, which was ranked No. 15 in Newsweek’s 2015 list of America’s top high schools.

The reporter failed to even mention CSW’s enrollment practices and specific interest clause which results in a very skewed population of students in a Wilmington School.  As of their 2014-2015 school profile, CSW had 6% African-American, 3.3% Hispanic-Latino, and .2% students with disabilities.  Meanwhile, far surpassing any school in the state, they had a population of 26.4% Asian students.  Their demographics do not even come close to matching the surrounding schools in Wilmington.

Aside from Howard High School in the New Castle County Vocational District, no other traditional Wilmington schools are mentioned.  This is a puff piece on charters and I have to wonder why that is.  I am usually suspicious when Dr. Paul Herdman of the Rodel Foundation is quoted in an article:

“We are at a juncture of potentially profound hope for Wilmington’s schools,” says Paul Herdman, president and CEO of the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, a nonprofit committed to creating a first-class educational system in the state by 2020.

Last Winter, I wrote an article concerning potential preferential treatment given to charter school teachers and the development of the Market Street Village apartments.  While Governor Markell’s office quickly debunked this theory, the article in the News Journal mentioned the Buccini/Pollin Group as providing this effort to attract teachers:

The new units will add to the 800 units Buccini/Pollin has already built in Wilmington, including 116 at The Residences of Harlan Flats, a luxury apartment property that opened last month along the Riverfront.

The Delaware Today article references the very same group as working with Great Oaks Charter School to attract certain kinds of teachers to Wilmington:

 With an ancillary mission of improving the community, Great Oaks worked with local developers Buccini/Pollin Group to find or create housing for its 37 AmeriCorps-funded tutors. Those now housed in various BPG apartment buildings on Market Street drive a need for restaurants and nightlife. And if the record from other cities with Great Oaks schools holds, a third of each year’s cohort will find permanent jobs and remain in the city after their year of service.

What concerned me the most about the article is the following part which flies in the face of the charter school moratorium in place with House Bill 56 w/Amendment #1 passed last Spring by the 148th General Assembly and signed by Governor Markell.

In the 2014-15 school year, 2,475 of the 11,575 students in Wilmington attended charter schools. That’s more than a fifth of the city’s school-aged children. And in two years, with the planned openings of new schools, charters will provide capacity for half of the city’s school-aged children. Six of the current charters call downtown home.

There is only one charter scheduled to open up next year in Wilmington, and that is the Delaware STEM Academy.  No applications for new charters were approved by the Delaware DOE last year, so where are all these new charters coming from?  Where do the estimated 3,300 students not currently attending charters currently go to school?  This makes me highly suspicious of a foul stench surrounding this article and plans in place that are not fully transparent to the public.  I have a strong suspicious many legislators in Delaware are not aware of these plans either as those who oppose the massive charter school push in Delaware would have surely mentioned this by now.  This article completely contradicts the view that there are already way too many charter schools in Wilmington and the reporter needs to reveal who told her about these new charters scheduled to open which will more than double the amount of Wilmington students attending charters.

As well, Paul Herdman talks about the role charter high schools play in Wilmington, and he made a completely false statement:

Though critics of public education in Wilmington make much of the fact that there is no traditional public school in the city, Herdman notes that there are three, each with a specific educational emphasis.

I’m not sure if Rodel and Herdman are aware, but charter schools are not traditional public schools.   They are uniquely different and it was specifically written into the original Delaware charter bill that these are not the same as traditional public schools.  Charter School of Wilmington, Freire and Delaware Met are not traditional public schools and the last of them may not even survive past the current school year.

This article poses a great deal of questions that deserve immediate answers.

Updated, 11:17am: Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman, the Vice Chair of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission wrote the following on my Facebook page:

In defense of the article’s participants, Laurisa Schutt (TFA) referred the Philly-based author to Tony (Allen)/WEIC, assuming they might be interested in a broader vision for Wilmington’s ed landscape. Needless to say, the author made it fairly clear she was not.

I did a quick check on the author, Melissa Jacobs, and could not find any real connections with charter schools but I did find one where she promotes education reform and the charter movement in the same article.  Her LinkedIn profile doesn’t even show her as a writer for Delaware Today, but does show her as an Associate Editor at Main Line Today out of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania and a freelance writer for the Pennsylvania Gazette, an alumni magazine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Power Women Today 2013

This gets more bizarre by the minute…