Charter School of Wilmington Gets Slammed Down By Red Clay Board With 5 Year Renewal Instead Of 10 Year

The Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education gave the Charter School of Wilmington their renewal but not the one CSW was hoping for. Continue reading

Ron Russo Lost Me With Jeb Bush, I Think I’m Going To “Go Home”!

Ron Russo, a senior fellow at the right-leaning Caesar Rodney Institute, wrote a blog post yesterday with a BOLD PLAN for Delaware schools.  By even mentioning former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and the Foundation for Excellence in Education in the very first sentence, it was hard to lend any credibility to this piece.  But I read the whole thing out of morbid curiosity.

…Governor Jeb Bush, the keynote speaker, told the attendees that they had to, “Be big, be bold, or go home.”

I would have left at that point and proudly went home.  Jeb Bush has made a ton of money capitalizing off the backs of schools and students.  He is the very essence of corporate education reform.  I give anything he says zero weight.

Russo seems to view former Red Clay Consolidated Board President William Manning as the Messiah of Delaware education:

He recommended a confederation of independent schools each locally managed and free of regulations about who to hire and how to teach.  The schools would be evaluated only by performance data that would be shared with the public.

Manning’s vision created charter schools that do not serve the populations within their district boundaries.  Quite a few Delaware charters have selective enrollment preferences that seem to further segregation and push out kids with high needs.  Manning was the lead attorney in the lawsuit against the Christina School District when charters that serve Christina students sued the district to get more money per student.  Eventually the lawsuit wound up becoming a settlement that further stripped funds away from the district.  Russo’s BOLD PLAN is modeled after the original charter school bill, Senate Bill 200:

The Caesar Rodney Institute is supporting a systemic change to our education bureaucracy called the “BOLD PLAN”.  It significantly alters the way the current education system operates by empowering the individual schools to make operational decisions to best serve their students.

In theory, this would be a great idea.  However, Russo lost me yet again when he brought up the VERY controversial priority schools as a potential model for this plan:

CRI’s BOLD PLAN incorporates the best features of the 1995 Charter School Law and the Memorandum of Understanding designed by Delaware’s DOE for Priority Schools.  If the changes proposed in the MOU were expected to raise the performance of the state’s lowest performing schools, why wouldn’t those changes be offered to all public schools?

Sorry Ron, but the priority school Memorandums of Understanding were absolutely horrible and did more to create parent backlash in Wilmington than anything seen before.  So what would this plan consist of?  Therein lies the rub:

BOLD legislation would specify areas of local decision-making.  Such areas would include: 1) Authority to hire and dismiss all staff; 2) All programing inputs (school calendar, schedule, curriculum aligned to Delaware standards, instructional practices and methodology, textbooks, technology, etc.); 3) Marketing and planning; 4) Support services including transportation, food, and maintenance; 5) Budget preparation and expenditure control with surplus operating funds retained by the school.  Schools will have autonomy from any district or Delaware DOE requirements not mandated by state or federal law.

This legislation has more holes than a donut shop.

  1. What happens if the board membership or the Superintendent of the district is not operating under normal parameters of their function?  What if personal grudges get in the way of a sound decision to hire or dismiss all staff?  Delaware is a small state and conflicts of interest are well-known in this state.
  2. You lost me at “Delaware standards”.  If you truly want to give local education authorities the coveted local control, they would be free to set their own curriculum without being tied to any type of standard pushed down from the state or federal government.  I have yet to see any indication Delaware will get rid of Common Core which was created under false pretenses.
  3. Don’t they already do this anyway?
  4. See #3
  5. That would not be a good thing.  Delaware charter schools already keep their surplus transportation funds in a sweetheart deal with the General Assembly and there is no apparatus to make sure those funds are being used with fidelity.  What is the point of even having a district or charter board if the school can do whatever it wants with extra money?  This proposal sounds like anarchy.

Russo’s logic becomes even more confusing when he casually drops the Rodel Visionfests and Race To The Top into his conversation:

The BOLD PLAN complements Delaware’s other education improvement efforts (Visions, Races, etc.).  In fact, it may even complete them.

I don’t think completion of those plans is something anyone in Delaware really wants.  Race To The Top was an unmitigated disaster with funds going to the state Department of Education more than local school districts.  The Vision Coalition goals further perpetuate many bad corporate education reform policies.  It is hard to take anything they do seriously when the CEO of the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, Dr. Herdman, makes over $345,000 a year.

Ironically, Russo channels Dan Rich who has been very involved with the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s proposed Wilmington redistricting.  But Russo doesn’t bring him up in any way related to that endeavor but rather his involvement with the Vision Coalition:

At the very first Vision 2015 meeting hosted by Dan Rich, then Provost of the University of Delaware, he ended the meeting by telling the attendees that if they wanted to improve Delaware’s public schools they had to be bold and, if they didn’t want to be bold, they should get out.  Hmmmm, it seems that Dan was way ahead of Jeb.

Comparing Rich to Jeb Bush almost seems insulting.  Of course, any education push should be bold.  But by telling people if you don’t like it to “get out” or “go home” it is essentially saying if you don’t agree with us we won’t give you the time of day.  That is NOT the way education issues should be ironed out and only creates more of a divide.  The Delaware charter school experiment, now well into it’s third decade, has met with very mixed results.  It has not been the rousing success the forefathers of the original legislation thought it would be.  Why would Delaware even entertain this idea based on that?  And lest we forget, all this imaginary “success” is based on standardized test scores, of which Delaware has gone through three different state assessments since then.  Sorry Ron, but this is not a BOLD PLAN.  It is an old plan, that just plain doesn’t work.

I have to wonder about the timing of this article.  The Caesar Rodney Institute has long been a fierce supporter of school vouchers.  Delaware has been very resistant to that system under Democrat control but under the Trump administration and the appointment of Betsy DeVos as the U.S. Secretary of Education, it is not surprising to see Russo coming out with this type of article.  President Trump and DeVos want a federal school voucher system that has already met with disappointing results in several states.

Oops! Christina’s NCS Wannabe Middle School Academy Forgot Something BIG In Their Application

chshonorsacademy

Christiana High School wasted no time getting the application for their controversial “Middle School Academy” out to the public.  The board approved this kind-of-magnet school last week with a 5-1 vote.  The program, slated to start next year with 6th graders, seems to love the word rigor.  Many concerned parents in the district have raised serious questions about potential discrimination and what effect this will have on the already existing middle schools in the district.  One commenter on an earlier article I posted about this said “Honors programs should be down the hall.”  I fully agree with this commenter.  I hate the name of this program.  It reeks of elitism and sounds like something it is pretending to be and wants to be, but really shouldn’t.  It sounds really pretentious and sort of obnoxious.  “My child goes to Middle School Academy”… I can hear it already…

The Christiana Middle School Honors Academy requires a high degree of commitment to academic and extra-curricular activities. Our vision offers selected middle school students the opportunity to become academically accomplished, confident, and well-rounded. Selected students will be educated using a rigorous curriculum focused on developing core knowledge, critical thinking and reasoning skills. This will be accomplished by providing each student with a smaller learning community that builds confidence and knowledge which will enhance their individual high school experience.

Aside from the extra-curricular activities, isn’t that what Common Core was supposed to bring to Delaware education to begin with?  Why is this district using the same boring Governor Markell talking points to sell this program?

But in the application, one of the requirements is for the student’s Smarter Balanced scores.  A quarter of the rubric for the application is weighted toward Smarter Balanced scores.  But here is the elephant in the room… what if the student was opted out of Smarter Balanced by their parents?  Christina has a board policy which states no student shall be penalized if they are opted out of the wretched test.  But this application says nothing about that or gives any indication they would change the formula in that situation.  This could cause students or parents who opted their child out to not apply because of the absence of this information.  As well, who is determining what the placement test will look like?  Has this been approved by the Christina Board of Education?  Is this test used by other schools?  Has this test been vetted and verified for its effectiveness?  If the parent statement is not a part of the rubric, why are they requiring it with the application?  Does the parent statement have any weight on the decision of placement?  Is there a panel who approves the application or just a principal?  What are the qualifications of whoever approves the applications?

Yeah, let’s throw some more controversy gas on an already raging fire!

Christina Moves Ahead With 6-12 “Rigor Academy” At Christiana High School

theschoolbus

On Wednesday evening, the Christina Board of Directors voted 5-1 to move forward on a controversial choice program at Christiana High School.  The new honors program, which will begin with 6th graders at Christiana High School, will pull the smarter students from existing Christina middle schools.  Eventually, this honors program with rigorous standards will have students from 6th-12th grade in it.  This will only continue the choice game in Delaware school districts.  Christina was one of the last remaining hold-outs on a program like this, but as a recent commenter wrote, they had no choice but to play the choice game.

Board President Elizabeth Campbell Paige was the only no voter for the program.  Board member John Young was not present for the meeting, but I have no doubt he would have voted no.

Earlier that day, I gave public comment at a meeting for the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities committee addressing the increasing divide between the “have” and the “have-not” students in Delaware.  I warned the committee that very soon the divide will be inseparable.  I feel the state is heading in the wrong direction in offering all these different “opportunities” for students.  We all know the most disadvantaged students: the poor, those with disabilities, those who are English Language Learners… they don’t get the same opportunities their regular peers do.

In an inter-district choice program, a student can take a bus to school, but they have to be picked up at the closest bus stop in their feeder pattern to where the choice school is.  This is true across the state.  That makes it very difficult for students whose parents may not have transportation or the means to get their child to that bus-stop.

Choice has become a major joke in this state.  We still have charter schools that are either mostly all white or in Wilmington, many charters that are mostly African-American.  I find it ironic that the advocates in Wilmington for the WEIC redistricting plan think that will solve all the problems.  The plan doesn’t even address the segregation in Delaware, much less Wilmington.  All it will do is dump students from one district with a ton of challenges to another district with the same challenges in many of their schools.  Both districts are steadily losing students to charter schools.

What Delaware needs is a weighted choice system.  With a weighted admission system.  Where every single student can get a chance.  If there is a lottery at a school like Newark Charter School or Charter School of Wilmington, there needs to be a weighted lottery.  This also goes for First State Montessori Academy.  They need to get rid of their specific interest preference.  They need to put their five mile radius preference first.  For a school that is located in the heart of downtown Wilmington, their demographics don’t show it.  Charter schools should represent the areas where they are.  If the General Assembly won’t put something like this through, I have no doubt the courts will one day.  Unless it is for good cause, I don’t think any student should go to a charter school outside of their school district.  There should be an immediate ban on this practice.

No more of these “rigor academies” that purposely leave out students who don’t have a chance.  It is stacking the deck a certain way.  This includes these “honors” programs and even the World Language Immersion programs.  The districts are killing themselves and they don’t even know it yet.  The districts think these programs are these great things, but they aren’t.  It might be for the few who would most likely have the same advantages either way, but not for the students who need more supports and just aren’t getting it.  These are 21st Century discrimination games.  No matter how many ways you cut this deck, students who need the most will continue to be shoved under the table and can’t make the final cut.  What a success story Delaware…

Charter Schools & ESSA Regulations: “We Are Not The Same”

We strongly oppose the inclusion of this requirement, which is not authorized by the statute. The Department bases this proposal on a desire “to provide transparency.” (No further justification is provided in the NPRM.) We, too, support greater transparency, regarding both charter and non-charter schools, but this requirement would result in the reporting of misleading data. Moreover, the proposed requirement appears to be based on the premise that charter schools should look the “same” as district public schools in close proximity, when by definition charter schools are open enrollment. Lastly, the proposed requirement that is not in the statute, and would not equally apply to all public schools – only charter schools would be included.

The National Association for Public Charter Schools gave a very long public comment for the draft regulations put forth by the United States Department of Education and Secretary John King.  Even they aren’t happy with parts of these regulations.  Many felt the Every Student Succeeds Act gave gifts to the charters, but apparently the charters do not like some of these regulations.

The most important question is not who is enrolled in a charter school; it is whether all students and families who may wish to enroll have the opportunity to enroll – only then is the parent’s choice a meaningful one. The comparison data that the Department is asking for would not reflect this factor because the data would confuse and conflate the decision to enroll with the opportunity to enroll. As such, comparison data may be one indicator of meaningful access but comparison data are not the correct, best or only frame with which to evaluate equity.

I find some of their statements very ironic.  Especially for some charter schools in Delaware where the opportunity to enroll is buried in selective enrollment preferences and factors that lead to very low populations of at-risk students: African-Americans, students with disabilities, and English Language learners.  So much so that the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights in December, 2014.

Like some charters in Delaware, this collection of America’s largest charter school organizations and franchises want to cherry-pick through the regulations to insert additional language in the Every Student Succeeds Act.  This is the one that disturbs me the most:

We recommend that the Department revise proposed section 200.24(d)(2), by adding a new clause (iii) reading as follows:

“(iii) Using funds that it reserves under section 1003(a), directly provide for the creation of new, replicated, or expanded charter schools to serve students enrolled in schools identified for comprehensive support and improvement, and other students in the local community, provided that:

“(A) The SEA has the authority to take such an action under State law or, if the SEA does not have that authority, the SEA has the LEA’s approval to use the funds in this manner; and

“(B) Such charter schools will be established and operated by non-profit entities with a demonstrated record of success (particularly in serving students from communities similar to those that would be served by the new charter schools), which the State shall determine through a rigorous review process.”

This language would be consistent with other provisions of the proposed regulations that support the concept of making charter school options available to students who would otherwise be enrolled in low-performing schools. It would take a different approach than just authorizing conversions, by making it possible for students enrolled in comprehensive support and improvement schools (as well as other students in the neighborhood or local community) to have the opportunity to transfer to a charter school run by a highly successful operator. We emphasize that the language would allow an SEA to use section 1003 funds for this purpose with the approval of the affected LEA, unless state law gives the SEA the authority to take such an action without LEA approval. (It would thus be somewhat parallel to the language currently in section 200.24(d)(2) allowing the SEA, with the LEA’s concurrence to provide school improvement activities through external partners). We strongly recommend that the Department adopt this recommendation.

I have no doubt you strongly recommend the Department inserts this into the law.  We have yet to see, based on equal demographics, that charter schools do better than traditional public school districts.  There are many charter schools that seem to work merely as rigor universities for high achievement on state assessments, but that is not a true barometer for student success which has been proven time and time again.

To read the rest about what the charters want and ALL the organizations and charters that signed this comment, read the entire document below:
 

Statewide Review Of Education Opportunities Highlights Charter School Cherry-Picking & Creaming

cherrypicking

Among the other controversial and disturbing events at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting yesterday, there was a presentation by the Public Consulting Group (PCG) on the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities (SREO) for Delaware Schools.  This was a review requested by Governor Jack Markell last March to figure out which schools are getting it right.  When it comes right down to it, this report was a series of graphs showing demographics of school districts and charters and which schools have things like AP classes and Career-Technical education opportunities.  All of this is based in 2014-2015 data.  This report cost Delaware taxpayers $70,000.00.

Last September, I worked with Delaware Liberal and Delaware First State in creating graphs of the Smarter Balanced Assessment results and how low-income, minorities, and students with disabilities fared poorly on the controversial test.  It also showed how schools with low populations of these sub-groups did really good on the test.

The below PCG reports clearly show the divide in Delaware, especially with certain charters in our state: Charter School of Wilmington, Newark Charter School, Delaware Military Academy, Odyssey Charter School, and Sussex Academy.  The result: complete chaos in Delaware.  While the effect of this is not as clearly felt in Kent County, it has created havoc in Wilmington and lower Sussex County.  If anyone actually believes the lotteries in these schools are random and fair, take a close look at the graphs in these reports.  They select, hand-pick and cherry-pick.  They cream from the top applicants.  And many charters in our state weed out the “bad” students by using their “counseling out” technique.  To some extent, the magnet schools in Red Clay and Indian River do this as well.

The reports give a well-crafted illusion that we have too many schools in Delaware.  This foregone conclusion is, in my opinion, trying to please the charter supporters in our state.  It talks about high demand and wait lists at certain charters and indicates there are too many “empty seats” in Delaware traditional schools.  Do not be fooled by this illusion.  Yes, some charters are in high demand because of the illusions cast by the State and the charter community on their perceived success based on standardized test scores.  I’m going to call this the “smart flight” as many parents pulled their kids out of traditional and even private schools over the past twenty years and sent their kids to charters.  This resulted in funds pouring out of the traditional districts while the state was slowly decreasing the amount they gave schools in the state.  This increased the amount of local dollars the districts had to use to run their schools.   Meanwhile, Common Core, Race To The Top, DSPT, DCAS, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment wormed their way into our lives causing even more funding to be siphoned from the classroom.  All of this created a perfect storm in Delaware culminating into a hurricane of inequity, discrimination, and segregation.  While Governor Markell did not influence these events twenty years ago, he certainly has been a major part of it for well over ten years, even before he became Governor.

This report could be read in many ways, but if I were reading as an outside observer looking into Delaware, I would be highly concerned.  We have charters with hardly any African-Americans and students with disabilities.  We have other charters with very high populations of the two.  We have a Department of Education, State Board of Education, and a General Assembly who allowed this to happen by falling asleep at the wheel.  We have the highly controversial Wilmington Education Improvement Commission attempting to redraw Wilmington school districts without guaranteed funding to support it.  We have companies like Rodel, the Longwood Foundation, and the Welfare Foundation pouring money into charters and influencing events behind the scenes and right in our faces.  We have key people in our state who are part of national education cabals molding education policy with the public oblivious to all of this.  We have outside companies coming into our state, taking our money, and creating reports on things we either already know or creating illusions designed to brainwash the populace.  This is Delaware education.

DOE Ignores Cherry-Picking In Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities Report To State Board

The Executive Director of the State Board of Education, Donna Johnson and Susan Haberstroh, in charge of Policy and External Affairs with the Delaware Department of Education, just presented a review of the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities to the Delaware State Board of Education.  The report fails to mention all the schools in Delaware that have selective enrollment practices that results in not all students given the same educational opportunities.  Instead, they are focusing on some of the schools that practice this logic.  This review stemmed from House Bill 56, signed by Governor Markell earlier this year.  That legislation also put a pause on new charter school applications until this review was done.  Public Consulting Group is the vendor for this initiative.

Red Clay’s Conrad In Violation Of Board Resolution On Parent Opt-Out of Smarter Balanced Assessment

The Conrad Schools of Science just came out with their 2016 Choice Application, and sure enough, it has a twelve point rubric.  Two of the points are based on the student’s Smarter Balanced Assessment math score.  If a student was opted out by his parents, what happens with this rubric?  And so it begins.  Expect to see more of this from certain Delaware schools.  Didn’t the Red Clay board pass an opt-out resolution last Spring indicating no student would be penalized for opting out?  I believe they did.  Sounds like Superintendent Merv Daugherty needs to have a talk with this magnet school…