Is Charter School Of Wilmington Finally Getting It With Their Admission Practices?

The Charter School of Wilmington had their monthly board meeting on Tuesday night.  On their agenda was a very interesting item about their recruitment efforts.  For years, many people in Delaware have complained about the highly ranked charter school’s insufficient number of low-income, African-American, and students with disabilities populations of students.  The school was specifically named in the American Civil Liberties Union complaint to the Office of Civil Rights about these practices.  Online debate over this issue brings out raw emotions from both sides of the issue.  It looks like Charter School of Wilmington may finally be coming around to taking a look at this fifteen year debate.

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“A Discussion of programs to increase low income and special ed applications.”  Kudos to whichever board member asked for this to be put on their agenda.  It’s about time.  I can’t wait to see these board minutes when they are released!

What Is Wrong With So Many Delaware Charter Schools?

I’ve been racking my brain on this for a long time now.  If it isn’t financial abuse, it’s bad enrollment preferences.  If it isn’t the DOE praising certain charter schools, it is a lack of due process.

I think what it comes down to is arrogance.  We see that in traditional school districts as well, but what makes it so pronounced with the charters?  Charters are smaller.  When they make noise, everyone hears it or points it out.  Nothing gets some Delawareans pissed off more than seeing some charters blatantly flaunting their admissions process.  For others, it is the amount of money being wasted by school leaders and not making it to the classroom.  But when a charter has issues, hearing or seeing the leaders defend problems that are so inherently wrong makes them look rather foolish.

Just about every charter school in Delaware, since I started this blog, had one of the above issues I mentioned since I started this blog back in June of 2014.  Three charters have shut down, with another going down at the end of this year.  When things go down at a charter, we often see the bulk of the parents defending the school as if they can do no wrong.  Is it that they are blind to the facts or is the option of sending their child to a traditional school district so frightening for parents they are willing to overlook these infractions?

There are the true horror stories like Delaware Met and possibly Delaware Design-Lab High School.  Brand new charters that don’t seem to have a clue how to run a school.  And as we’ve seen time and time again, the DOE, with rare exceptions, doesn’t do anything until after that Wednesday in January when the choice window closes.  We find out what they knew all this time, and the DOE gets away with it every single time.

What are we teaching our children?  That it’s okay to send the more fortunate and the more knowledgeable to the “better” schools?  That it doesn’t matter if you go to a school that is 98% African-American?  That if you are “counseled out” of a charter it’s okay to be out of the system for over a month?  Behind all of this is the shadow of standardized test scores.  For all Delaware schools, including charters, this is the measurement over which the DOE’s judgment is severe.  Many think the DOE is too charter friendly, but when there are issues, the DOE comes down on them like white on rice.  Which is good, but had the DOE acted sooner in many of these situations things wouldn’t get as bad.

There are no easy answers or solutions to these issues.  What we need is a culture change when it comes to charters.  In the meantime, the war, yes, the war, continues.  It bubbles over into every aspect of education in our state in one form or another.

Why Didn’t Freire Charter School In Wilmington Announce Their Bomb Threat Today?

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You won’t find this on the News Journal.  Or on Freire’s Facebook page either.  But the school had a bomb threat today which caused at least seven Wilmington police cars to come to the school.  After the police investigated, the students were allowed back in the school an hour later.  Not confirmed is a school authority advising a local resident that several students were suspended and the matter is still being investigated.  Were parents of the students notified about this?  Where is the transparency in our Delaware charter schools???

As well, there have been at least five visits by the Wilmington Fire Department at the school since they opened in August over fire alarms.

Freire Charter School of Wilmington opened in August after a hellacious year involving issues with the Midtown Brandywine Neighborhood Association.  When the neighbors protested the school’s opening without a clear plan on the increased traffic, the former Head of School got into an exchange with one of the protesters which resulted in charges filed against him.  He “resigned” from the school shortly thereafter.  Freire’s original model was a “zero tolerance” charter school, but they changed that last year because of the “specific interest” clause in their admission policy.  They applied for a federal grant for startup costs which specifically prohibits any type of specific interest in their enrollment strategies.  The above picture is the emblem of Freire, but I’m not sure what a fire-breathing dragon has to do with a charter school…

Meanwhile, Delaware legislators in Washington D.C. wrote the FBI to look into the multiple bomb threats across Delaware the past few weeks and when the FBI should act on this.  According to the article by the Middletown Transcript, only state and local authorities have been investigating the Delaware threats.

Delaware Enrollment Preference Task Force Final Report Released Today

Coming in at 489 pages, this is a mammoth report!  I know Delaware State Representative Kim Williams has worked on this for a long time.  Congratulations to all the members of the task force for their hard work with this group.  I only managed to get to one of the meetings, but I really wish I could have gone to all of them.  This task force came out of Delaware House Bill 90.  Its mission was to take a very hard look at how Delaware charter schools, vocational schools, and magnet schools select their students.  I haven’t even been able to come close to finishing this, but it is well worth the time.

WEIC’s Charter-District Collaboration Meeting Minutes Show Obvious Barriers

A student from the Charter School of Wilmington described the sense of community at his school, and the concern that this committee might break up that community that is very important to the school.

 

I didn’t expect the Charter School of Wilmington issues to come up so fast in the whole Wilmington Education Improvement Commission/redistricting initiative, but I’m glad the elephant in the room was addressed in the first Charter and District Collaboration Committee meeting.  The minutes from the September 23rd meeting, seen below, show many of the concerns surrounding the whole charter/traditional conversation from both sides of the aisle.

The one part that was brought up was the whole nature of a “consortium” for the Wilmington charters which was brought up in the original WEAC report (or book if you have it, there are a few thousand of these floating around Delaware).  A commenter made the following statement:

The recommendation in the WEAC report is on collaboration in the form of a consortium. It is important to focus time around that, and decide if a brand new consortium is necessary or if you should work with the existing Charter School Network and Innovative Schools. We need to embrace the existing options and use the organizations we have, and determine what target we are aiming at.

Yeah, I don’t know if I can recommend Innovative Schools as a role model these days.  They have their hands full with the schools they are operating in.  And we all know what is going on with Delaware Met.  To have the Delaware Charter Schools Network running the show is also a recipe for disaster.  They have not shown a true willingness to work with traditional school districts and this has caused a lot of angst with the issues.  Especially when it comes to equity among the two and legislation to even the playing field.

There are lots of other interesting and conversation-starting bits in here.

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…

Delaware DOE, Learn The Difference Between “Guidance” & “Regulatory”

Guidance means a “suggested” way of doing things.  “Regulatory” means you have to do it.  The Delaware DOE doesn’t seem to know the difference between the two.  There is a very fine distinction.  This is the case with the Accountability Framework Working Group being told by Penny Schwinn at the DOE that participation rate penalties in the Delaware School Success Framework are “mandatory” and “non-negotiable”.  This is a complete fabrication and distortion of the truth.  But it appears the district superintendents and administrators on this group swallowed the lie, because they agreed to it.

But here is the important distinction between guidance and regulatory.  The US DOE issued guidance on charter school enrollment preferences surrounding specific interest in their applications.  They stated charter schools should only use this to benefit Title I, IDEA, low-income & minority students, and students with disabilities.  As we all know, certain charters in our state completely ignore this and pick who they want for their schools.  I don’t see the Delaware DOE rushing to enforce this “guidance”.  If they had, there wouldn’t be a pending complaint in the Office of Civil Rights from the ACLU of Delaware and Delaware Community Legal Aid against the Delaware DOE and Red Clay Consolidated School District.  But when it comes to parent opt-out, that guidance becomes “mandatory” and “non-negotiable”.

In the presentation below, the key pages are 4 and 16.  It indicates a potential way of using opt-out or participation rate in accountability but nowhere does it say “You must do this or we won’t approve your waiver request.”  They can threaten and bully all they want, but we all know how that turns out in the end.

To read the non-regulatory guidance concerning charter school enrollment preferences, please read below:

Delaware Charter War Part 1: The Birth of Charter School of Wilmington, Counseling Out & Cherry-Picking of Delaware Students

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Charter schools.  Two words that bring up a great deal of conversation in Delaware.  For some they have become the savior of public education.  For others they find that they continue segregation in Delaware, are not accountable in the way traditional schools are, and they are the root cause of the corporate education reform movement that has swept across America over the past decade.  In the 1990s, charter schools were created in Minnesota and California.  By 1995, Delaware wanted to take a stab at it.

In 1995, six companies wanted to sponsor a new type of school in Delaware, a charter school: AstraZenaca (then called Zenaca Inc.), Christiana Care Health (then called Medical Center of Delaware), Delmarva Power, DuPont, Hercules Incorporated and Verizon (then called Bell Atlantic). They infused a $600,000 commitment into the school launch. Red Clay Consolidated School District President of the Board William Manning, and St. Marks Principal Ron Russo, were sold on the idea. Originally, they wanted to house the Charter School of Wilmington at The Pines in Pike Creek, a northern suburb of Wilmington, but local residents rejected this idea.  Why not turn Wilmington High School into a charter school? They wanted to offer parents different choices for education that did not involve parents shelling out tons of hard-earned money for private schools.  The school already housed two magnet schools at the time: Cab Calloway School of the Arts and the Academy of Math & Science. The plan was to have Charter School of Wilmington replace the Academy. But first the concept of charter schools in Delaware had to become part of state code.

Enter Senator David Sokola, who sponsored Senate Bill 200. At the time there was no Rodel Foundation, Delaware Charter Schools Network, Innovative Schools, or any charter organization in the state. There were no high-stakes standardized tests at this point. Governor Carper was getting a lot of pressure to change education in Delaware. Reform efforts already began which put Delaware in the spotlight for the first time in a long time.

To get to the story of how CSW began, we have to look even further back at the landmark decision made in 1978.  If folks think four school districts is too much for Wilmington, back then there were eleven! After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, which demanded the dismantling of “black” school districts, Wilmington schools were desegregated based on a court ruling called Evans v. Buchanan in 1956. The schools integrated and by 1967 there were no more black school districts in Delaware.

The demographics of Wilmington changed drastically since Brown v. Board of Education. In seventeen years, Wilmington went from 73% white in 1954 to 79% black by 1971.  Dubbed the “white flight”, Wilmington changed dramatically in less than two decades.

The concept of desegregating schools in Delaware was not native to Wilmington.  According to Gene Capers, a retired principal from Towne Point Elementary School in Dover, William Henry Middle School housed the “black” students of Dover, while Central Middle School had all the “white” students.  In the late 1960s, the district changed the dynamics of the two schools and integrated all students in 5th-6th in William Henry and 7th-8th in Central Middle School, which continues to this very day.

In 1969, the General Assembly approved the Educational Advancement Act of 1968, trimming down the number of school districts in the state from 49 to 26. Wilmington wasn’t a part of this legislation, and in effect, Wilmington became re-segregated. In the 1970s, many schools began re-segregating students. The State Board of Education came up with the very controversial “busing plan”. Schools were forced to accept every type of student and the result was a dramatic shift in the makeup of many schools in the area. Schools were closed, students were resassigned, and parents became very angry. The entire public school district system changed, and parents wanted to do away with the busing requirements. The anger from this gave birth to the creation of charter schools in Delaware.

Senate Bill 200 passed in the General Assembly in 1995 creating charter schools in Delaware.  The bill was introduced on June 1st, 1995, and signed by Governor Carper on July 10th of the same year.  To read the whole Senate discussion on Senate Bill 200, please read the below in its entirety.  Senator Sharp predicted much of what came to pass.

By 1996, Charter School of Wilmington was approved by the Red Clay Consolidated School District. In their application, it stated Delaware required 19 credits for students to graduate, Red Clay required 20 credits, but CSW required 24, and said “We regard these requirements as only a minimum education program.” What was even more frightening though was the part about special education, to which the Red Clay Accountability Committee wrote:

“As the Charter School of Wilmington accepts students, it should be cognizant of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), a federal law which mandates a free and appropriate education (FAPE) for students with disabilities. The charter school plans to seek a waiver from the State of Delaware related to the special education provision…The value of diversity which appears in the school’s mission statement must be made concrete through the provisions of this aspect of the Charter School’s operations. Specification of admission requirements was requested of the Charter Committee and a copy of the application was provided and is attached as Appendix B. It is clear from this application that the proposed charter has met the requirements of the law which stipulate that the charter may not restrict student admissions.”

In fact, CSW may have given birth to the phrase “counseling out” with charter schools, as written in their response to the Red Clay Accountability Committee:

“Students who cannot or will not meet success criteria will be counseled to transfer to other schools. It would be appropriate for students to enroll in the CHARTER SCHOOL at times other than the beginning of the school year. This presumes a minimum of disruption to the student’s schooling. Ideally, any transfers out would be balanced by the arrival of new students. Consideration should be given to having the balance of the student’s funding follow the student to the receiving school.”

The issue of charter school funding is an issue that still haunts traditional school districts to this very day.  State Rep. Kim Williams introduced House Bill 28 this legislative session to address this issue, but the bill wasn’t even heard in the House Education Committee.

While the “specific interest” of CSW wasn’t talked about in the response, it became very clear that the assessment given to students prior to admission was a requirement for the school, but this wasn’t listed in the response to Red Clay.

“In the case of oversubscription, the CHARTER SCHOOL will use the preferences permitted by the CHARTER LEGISLATION; i.e., siblings, Red Clay Consolidated School District students residing in a five-mile radius of the school. Diversity will be achieved by attracting a diverse pool of student applicants.”

The reality is, once the school got to a position of needing a lottery for students to enter, the opposite occurred.  Instead of achieving diversity, the school in the City of Wilmington became the mirror opposite of the population of Wilmington.  When the seventh type posted the original Senate document, some very interesting conversations took place on Delaware Liberal with both sides of the issue planting their flags in the ground over the topics of race and the predictions of Delaware Senators and eventual segregation in Wilmington schools.

For the first few years, CSW accepted applications from anyone who applied. But the first charter of the state was already on the way to becoming the school it is now in terms of demographics. Imagine the old Wilmington High School all of a sudden housing three different schools. On the first floor was Cab Calloway, Wilmington High School on the second, and CSW on the third. Ron Russo, the head of school at CSW, was adamant about keeping the CSW students separate from the Wilmington High students. In 1997, an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer by reporter Connie Langland talked about this new choice option open to Delaware students. Manning was quoted as saying “The nice thing about choice is that it tells you right away what people think of your schools…and what schools require change.”

Langland wrote in the article:

“Another concern is whether the plan will have an adverse impact on long-standing efforts to desegregate Wilmington-area schools. School districts in the Wilmington area have relied on busing to achieve racial balance, but with choice families can avoid an unwanted assignment.”

By 1999, Wilmington High School was no more, and the former home of the Red Devils was now the birthplace of the Delaware charter school and a magnet school.

In the book: Congressional Record Vol. 146-Part 2: Proceedings and Debates of the 106th Congress Second Session from March of 2000, Bill Manning was described in a section on school construction funding that he testified at:

“An attorney by trade, Mr. Manning has been among Delaware’s leaders in proposing and implementing a variety of educational reforms: public school choice, charter school legislation, and rigorous academic standards statewide. Red Clay is currently the only district in Delaware to have reached an agreement with its teachers association pursuant to which Red Clay teachers will be evaluated based on student performance.”

During the testimony, Manning said:

“I believe, as do many of you, that charter schools are already improving the educational landscape by offering variety, quality and single-school focus to those who previously had to pay to get those things. That’s the good news. The bad news is that charter schools are still regarded by the educational establishment in some quarters as the enemy. Thus, the organization that owns our school buildings is sometimes stingy with them when it comes to housing charter schools. Nor do the funding formulae in many state charter school bills provide adequate capital- as opposed to operating- assistance to charter schools. Please don’t overlook them.”

To date, Charter School of Wilmington is the only charter school in Delaware that started (and continues to do so) in a building that also housed a regular traditional school district school. While charters share space in the Community Education Building in Wilmington, no other charter has been able to replicate the success of what CSW did in terms of literally taking the best and brightest out of their own building and sending the others to feeder schools.

As the sun set on the previous century, more charter schools were approved by the Delaware Department of Education and opened up across Delaware: Campus Community School and Positive Outcomes in Kent County, EastSide Charter School and Thomas Edison in Wilmington, and Sussex Academy. One charter, called the Richard Milburn Academy, closed down in 2000 due to poor academic performance and the inability of board members to function as a cohesive unit.  Other charters applied for authorization, and were approved, but never opened.

The idea of charter schools was blossoming from an idea to a new landscape for education in Delaware. The forced busing issue combined with school choice was setting up the battle for the ages, but something happened in 2000 that changed everything for all Wilmington schools.

To be continued…

*Special thanks to the amazing narrative of Antonio Prado and Andrea Miller in http://www.clintdantinne.com/mphs/losthighschools.pdf which provided a great deal of the historical backdrop in this article.  As well, to Mike O from the seventh type who provided a wealth of knowledge in his publishing of the Senate discussion of Senate Bill 200.  I would also be remiss in forgetting the Delaware Department of Education who provided the link to the Charter School of Wilmington’s original application to the Red Clay Consolidated School District.

Reader Takes On Charter School of Wilmington Placement Tests & Specific Interest Enrollment Preference

As a part of the 4th most-read article on this blog, a commenter who I don’t always agree with and doesn’t always agree with me found common ground on an issue that comes up time and time again: Just how great is Charter School of Wilmington (CSW) when they stack the odds in their favor?  For those who may not know the acronym, DMA is Delaware Military Academy.  This is what “Education Opinions” wrote:

I want to start by saying that I personally am an advocate for a lot of the charters in the Wilmington area, but the attitudes of Justpassingthru and RationalStudent exemplify why people have an issue with the Charter School of Wilmington. I disagree with Kevin on many things and have even participated in his “Correct the Blogger” challenge in the past, but his comment below that starts with “you asked, you shall receive” is spot on. Having a placement test before enrollment is a huge red flag because, as he said, this is not a private school. Charter schools SHOULD be created and sustained by serving the needs of THEIR COMMUNITY, ideally using learning models that traditional schools can’t or won’t use. I don’t doubt that CSW has an excellent math and science program, but many traditional schools do as well. CSW is really not doing anything that other schools aren’t doing, they are just doing it with ONLY the “top students.”

People who truly care about educational equity in their community believe that all children can succeed and be taught given the right environments and supports, but CSW’s enrollment practices basically say they are not willing or able to support those who are not already testing in the very high percentile of students. Having a charter school in Wilmington that has demographics SO different from the city of Wilmington is a MAJOR problem. I have met with staff from CSW before about the school opening its doors to a more diverse student population and I have had staff look me in the eye and say “We are diverse, we are over 15% Asian.” “Diversity” does not mean “one non-white race or ethnicity at your school.” It means MANY different groups, and it is NOT just limited to race and ethnicity. In some Wilmington charter schools it can be difficult to achieve ideal levels of diversity because often times the schools mirror the demographics of the city, but CSW does not even do that which is an even bigger problem than those schools who are mostly made up of minority students. I have attended open houses at CSW with potential students and I understand that CSW students work EXTREMELY hard for their success; the classes they are taking and the projects they are required to do are very impressive – my problem is not that CSW exists or that their expectations are high, it is that it is set up in such a way to only admit a specific type of student. Why shouldn’t all students have access to this type of program if it is really so great?

I will end by saying that it is ridiculous for people who are sticking up for CSW to try to throw Cab, DMA, Conrad, and other schools under the bus in the same breath. People like me who are against CSW’s enrollment processes are well aware of which other schools have equally, if not more, discriminatory practices. (Although in my opinion, DMA should not even be a part of this conversation because that is a VERY different situation as a military-focused program has a whole other set of rules and regulations that I would imagine are very similar to the actual military.) We know Cab and other schools are discriminatory as well, but it is interesting for pro-CSW people to point that out – FYI, it doesn’t help your case.

All I can say is thank you to Education Opinions for pointing out brilliantly what the reality of CSW’s enrollment really is.

My Thoughts On The WEAC Report: Charter Love & Not Enough For Special Needs Students

Having read the entire Wilmington Education Advisory Committee’s Final Report, I’m left with more questions than answers.  Going into this, I did not expect the report to solve all the education problems in Delaware, let alone Wilmington.  The report has lots of data and many letters from the usual groups involved in education in Delaware.

My first impression: This report fails to recognize the damaging effect charter schools have on traditional school districts.  Funding has been stripped from school districts while charters have mostly been allowed to flourish not only with state and local funds, but also numerous donations by companies such as The Longwood Foundation and Innovative Schools.

One thing I was happy to see was this:

“Converting all Wilmington schools to charter schools authorized by a newly created Wilmington Charter District is neither desirable on educational grounds nor practical on political grounds.  Charter schools are playing a central and growing role in Wilmington public education.  However, Wilmington children require the full array of educational options that is possible only with a continued reliance on district, charter, and vo-tech schools.”

Amen!  I know Tony Allen and many members of WEAC have a deep and abiding love of all things charter, but to have them take over would be tantamount to a disaster of epic proportions.  But there is quite a bit in the report showing why charters will continue to grow in Wilmington with no anecdotal proof of how they came about these figures other than growing trends.  If the charter school moratorium for new charter applications becomes law, how are they basing the 2017 numbers and beyond?

Another example of a misleading report comes from the section showcasing a report by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.  This group attended the last Enrollment Preference Task Force meeting and advised the committee that charter schools should not have specific interest as an enrollment preference unless it serves students who need it the most: Title I, low-income, minority, students with disabilities, ELL, and others in those groups.  The WEAC report did not mention this very specific item which helped widen many of the gaps between schools in Wilmington and parts of Sussex County.  It did touch on certain “enrollment preferences” and recommends this be adapted to best national practices.

What this report fails to do is to bolster traditional school districts.  It seems geared towards getting more kids into charters but at the same time calling for more collaboration between the traditional school districts, charters and vo-techs.  This is dangerous territory to plant your flag in.

There is very little about students with disabilities in the report as well.  There are a few mentions, but absolutely nothing about what will be a growing trend and how to account for this.  I imagine groups and committees will spin out of this report, but it is a large enough issue that I feel it should have been addressed in this report because it is a priority in our state.

The report calls for a Charter Consortium, with more power than the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  This consortium would include all Wilmington charters to share best practices and have one organization perform financial and management duties.  While this would not be a KIPP-like takeover as I have predicted in the past, it could grant charters in the state even more power than they have now, which is very extensive and carries a lot of political muscle among our legislators.

I do have reservations concerning Red Clay being the sole district with Wilmington local schools.  I have not seen any indication that Brandywine would take any of these schools, so I have to assume Red Clay would bear the brunt of the consolidation.  Christina and Colonial would be out, and Red Clay would be the sole traditional school district.  My thought is this: they don’t do a good job with the three charters in their district so how can they add on a large number of  schools and be able to effectively run all these schools?

The devil is in the details, as they say, and I expected more in the details in this report.  What comes of this will be the key, and I anxiously await what happens next.  But the mystery behind all of this is the national issue of ESEA authorization.  If something changes on a Federal level in regards to curriculum and standardized testing, it could change many aspects of this report and what comes next.  I would urge the legislators in Delaware to show restraint until what happens on a national level is determined first.

Freire Wants To Get Rid Of Specific Interest As Well Due To Non-Compliance With Federal Regulations

Early College High School isn’t the only Delaware charter school that has submitted a major modification request with the Delaware Department of Education to remove specific interest as an enrollment preference.  Freire, scheduled to open in the 2015-2016 academic year, is also requesting this.

Once again, the Charter School Accountability Committee asked a charter school for a copy of the Federal Guidance (posted yesterday in the article before this one).  Is the Delaware DOE not aware of this?  How could they not be?  The National Association of Charter School Authorizers had a presentation with the Delaware State Board of Education earlier this month and they were scheduled to present to the Enrollment Task Force but that meeting was canceled due to inclement weather.

At the Delaware State Board of Education meeting on 2/19/14, during the Charter School Review presentation by the Director of Charter Schools, Jennifer Nagourney, the subject of the modification requests for both schools came up.  She did acknowledge both schools want compliance with Federal Guidance based on applying for Federal start-up grants, but nothing was discussed about this enrollment preference practice in Delaware or the wisdom behind continuing this in light of Federal guidance which suggests otherwise.

To listen to this part of the State Board of Education meeting, please go here: http://dedoe.schoolwires.net/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&ModuleInstanceID=4240&ViewID=E324842B-E4A3-44C3-991A-1E716D4A99E3&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=13013&PageID=1770

Federal Guidance States Specific Interest Is Not An Enrollment Preference For Charters, Delaware In Violation

“A charter school may weight its lottery to give slightly better chances for admission to all or a subset of educationally disadvantaged students if State law permits the use of weighted lotteries in favor of such students.”

Early College High School, the new charter school that opened in Dover, DE this academic year submitted a request for a major modification.  On February 2nd, they had their meeting with the Charter School Accountability Committee.  What happened at this meeting looks like it took the Charter School Accountability Committee completely by surprise.  It turns out, Federal charter school law does not allow specific interest as an enrollment preference for admission to a charter school.

Early College High School’s major modification request was to change their enrollment preference to take out both the specific interest clause and weighted enrollment preference for the children of any of the school’s founders.  The school said they were applying for a Federal grant through the non-SEA Charter School Program, and found out through the US Department of Education that specific interest is not an allowable enrollment preference for any charter school in the country.  They wanted this modification to be in alignment with Federal practices.

I looked for this, and found out that yes, specific interest is not an allowable enrollment preference under any circumstances.  And this is based on Title VI of The Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, and Section 5204 (a) (1) of The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

This is all written out in the Charter School Program non-regulatory guidance document from Fiscal Year 2014, with Section E, pages 17-22 giving all the details.

So now my question would be how in the world would the two charter school authorizers in the State of Delaware not know this?  Those would be the Delaware Department of Education and Red Clay Consolidated School District.  Who gives these authorizers legal guidance?  How many students in Delaware were picked for charter schools under the specific interest clause and how many students were turned away because they did not pick it?

Ironically, Delaware state law grants permission for the specific interest clause.  It allows the following enrollment preferences for charter schools:

  • Students residing within a five-mile radius of the school
  • Students residing within the regular school district in which the school is located
  • Students who have a specific interest in the school’s teaching methods, philosophy or educational focus
  • Students who are at risk of academic failure
  • Children of persons employed on a permanent basis for at least 30 hours per week during the school year by the charter school.Preference may also be given to siblings of current students and students attending a public school that is converted to charter status. Children of founders may also be given preference up to 5 percent of the school’s total student body.

The most noteworthy charter school in Delaware that utilizes the specific interest category is the Charter School of Wilmington.  This is one of the three named schools in the ACLU lawsuit against Delaware Department of Education and Red Clay Consolidated, along with Newark Charter School and Sussex Academy of Arts and Sciences.  Newark Charters School actually grants the school director discretion to pick applicants before the lottery.

Even the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools gave Delaware a bad rating in this category for their national state rankings report for charter schools, found here: http://www.publiccharters.org/get-the-facts/law-database/states/DE/

Stemming out of Delaware’s House Bill 90, State Rep. Kim Williams created the enrollment preference task force which is still in force.  The next meeting will be very interesting given this information.