WEIC Public Hearing At Brandywine Springs Brings A Different Crowd

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission held their fourth public hearing concerning the draft plan for the redistricting of Wilmington schools last night at Brandywine Elementary School.  Shana O’Malley with WDEL wrote about the WEIC draft concerns earlier today.

Something’s broken in the school system and no amount of money is going to fix that.

Many attendees expressed concern with the funding for this initiative in Wilmington Schools and how it will not only affect citizens in the Red Clay Consolidated School District, but the entire state.

“If it’s socioeconomic, something going on in the house, that belongs to social services,” said one parent. “The school district is not in the business of taking care of the mental health aspects of these kids, providing for them. Where are the parents at?”

With the Every Student Succeeds Act, there is a section on “Community Schools” where many of these services would be provided.  It is a very fine line in my opinion.  There is a huge difference between the population at Brandywine Springs Elementary and Warner Elementary.  One is out in the suburbs and the other is in the middle of the city.  Is it fair for a more affluent population to protest funding for the low-income populations?  This is the age-old question.  It also gets into the whole school choice issue in Delaware as well, especially up in Wilmington.  Some folks would love nothing more than “government schooling”, the public school system, to go away.  This crowd favors school vouchers to have funding diverted to private schools.  But then on the other end of the spectrum, we have students in Wilmington, usually African-American, who don’t have a complete family unit and live in neighborhoods filled with crime and drug use.  These are two completely different worlds, however, the first world inadvertently helped create the second world through “white flight”.

The speaker asked where the parents are at.  They could both be working.  It could be a single-parent home.  A parent could be in prison or deceased.  But chances are, a parent in Hockessin makes a lot more money than the parent of a child at these Wilmington schools.  If parents are unable to set up mental health services for children, when does the city, county or state need to step in?  It comes down to the haves and the have-nots.  The haves want to keep what they have but the have-nots see what the haves have and want that but are unable to get it themselves.  But here is the key issue: these are children who didn’t write the script here.  This is the world they were born into.  Should inner-city students be denied the things folks in the suburbs take for granted?  This became very evident at Skyline Middle School in Red Clay this fall.  Due to a change in feeder patterns, Skyline took in many students who are considered disadvantaged.  As a result, school bullying increased causing parent outcry at their past couple board meetings.

These are the modern issues of the day.  We have come a long way since the first half of the 20th century when blacks were separated from whites.  We are, and should be, past that.  But economic levers still dictate these kinds of situations from happening in many cities in America.  For any issues like WEIC to work, it is going to take a lot of listening, convincing, and patience.  It will take compromise, from all sides of the issues.  But the big problem here is the timing.  Some of the people behind WEIC are afraid that if the moment passes it will be lost for a generation.  So in a sense, it is being rushed.  During an election year, and even during a gubernatorial election year.  If it comes down to the rich wanting separation and the poor wanting equity, with the dwindling middle class straddling both sides of the issues, we will get nowhere.  And in all of this, are those with disabilities.  Students from low-income, a minority and a disability.  If we keep these children “out” of the public school system in our affluent areas, is that not a form of triple segregation?  We can’t just rely on the status quo in Delaware.  These are deep concerns that affect the viability of our state.  Compared to many other states, we are woefully behind not only in education but also moving away from the past.  In this “me” versus “society as a whole”, I personally choose society.  Because if society isn’t right, I don’t feel I can be in my head knowing I’m not contributing to society.  I know, we all pay taxes.  Some pay more, some pay less.  Nothing in life is free.  We pay for products that constantly go up in price, but complain when taxes go up.  Why?

Are Brandywine’s Mark Holodick & The News Journal Singing A New Song On Smarter Balanced & Opt-Out?

The Superintendents of the Wilmington schools, Red Clay, Christina, Colonial and Brandywine, held an education forum for WDEL last night.  Discussing the issues of Wilmington education, the subject of the state assessment came up.  What was very interesting was Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick’s response to this issue.  He told WDEL’s Shana O’Malley:

Brandywine superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick added that they’re starting to see pushback from those who are frustrated and unhappy with state standardized testing.

“The length of the state assessment, how often it’s being given, combined with this era of high stakes accountability for both educators and school ratings and rankings, I think it has reached a tipping point,” he said.

I gave Holodick a lot of heat earlier in the year for his views on opt-out procedures.  He seemed to think only he could decide who takes the test and who doesn’t.  Opt-out isn’t about someone giving permission.  It’s about honoring a parent’s right and not giving any grief about it.  Even Acting Christina Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski jumped on the issue.

“For example, the state test that we give, I think cost us about $6 million,” said Dr. Robert Andrzejewski, acting superintendent for the Christina School District. “What if we decided to go back to a system where we test grades three, five, eight and ten like we used to and maybe cut the testing cost in half. There are other priorities like that.”

Or how about we just get rid of the Smarter Balanced and high-stakes testing environment altogether Bob A?  That would solve that problem!

Even the News Journal Editorial staff jumped on this issue this morning.

If that’s the case, why can’t Delaware take a proactive stance and focus not on a child’s scores, but on the child herself? If the state is so concerned with schools trying to game the system, then the system is broken and our energy should be spent on fixing it, not simply policing it.

The devil is in the details with that one.  If it means personalized learning where one students gets ahead faster and another stays behind, no thanks!  And how much will it cost to fix it?  We all know fixing anything in education in Delaware means the DOE sends tons of money to outside companies to “fix” what they don’t understand.  And if it’s all tied to the Delaware School Success Framework, the DOE’s latest and not greatest accountability nightmare, it still doesn’t matter.  We will see what kind of people the Delaware State Board of Education really are when they vote on Regulation 103 which makes this insane school report card legal.  Even the News Journal seems to agree on that one:

Though Gov. Jack Markell vetoed opt-out legislation this summer, it’s safe to assume Smarter Balance will not see 100 percent student participation this school year. And if the General Assembly overrides Markell’s veto when it returns to session, then the entire scorecard concept is out the window.

House Bill 50 is all about parental rights in terms of how they want their child to be educated.  It is nothing more than that.  Something the News Journal is finally coming around to by giving it their full support:

In the meantime, parents, more than anybody else, deserve to have a say in how their kids are educated. Let’s honor that right.

It would have really helped if they came out with that opinion eight months ago!  Why the sudden shift in thinking on the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  I think it is becoming more apparent than ever that Governor Markell is indeed a lame-duck at this point and everyone is sick to death of hearing about his education reform ideas.  Everyone is starting to look towards the future and essentially undoing a lot of what Jack wrought on the First State.  Folks are sick and tired of the accountability behemoth the DOE has become and they want it to stop.  Their stupid score card penalties are not required, and I have not heard anyone say “Oh, that’s a great idea!”  The DOE is a hot mess, and if they want to play the accountability game, that starts with them!  In the meantime, keep opting your kid out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment and educate other parents of their rights!

Meanwhile, as all the adults keep tinkering around with education, it is the students who suffer the most.  As Dr. Holodick told WDEL:

“I think we have an opportune time to ask some really hard questions about what we have created regarding the educational landscape in Delaware,” added Holodick.

We are ALWAYS asking the really hard questions Mark.  The time to stop asking and start doing has to begin now before this generation of students loses it all to the high-stakes testing proficiency machine.