16 To Watch In 2016: The Delaware Bloggers

We strike first.  We don’t have to wait for a copy editor or an all-clear from the publisher.  We are the copy editor.  We are the publisher.  You love us.  You hate us.  We show up at meetings when you least expect us.  Some of you get nervous when you see us typing feverishly.  We don’t get paid.  We do it for the kids.  We find you.  We are opinionated and headstrong.  We have allies and enemies.  We know who has been naughty and nice.  We are the tired.  We are the alert.  We don’t cut corners.  We don’t aim to please.  Election Season is coming.  Fear Us.  This is gonna be fun!

KilroyKev

We Need Teacher Blogs In Delaware!

As I look at my Delaware blogger list, I see fewer posts by many on the Delaware blogs.  I see very few from teachers in Delaware.  I keep wondering why this is.  My first assumption is they are afraid of retribution for what they write.  Which is why we need Delaware teachers to write anonymous blogs.  We need to hear things from their perspective, the good and the bad.  What is working?  What isn’t?  How are students REALLY doing in the classroom?  How do they do on actual classroom assignments?  What are the concerns and fears teachers have?  How do they feel about Common Core and Smarter Balanced now that we are waist-deep in it?  This voice is dwindling in Delaware and people need to hear it.

So I am calling out for any teachers in Delaware to start anonymous blogs.  I welcome all education blogs in this state.  Kilroy doesn’t post as much these days, but that is for a good reason.  Kavips will sometimes post 10 articles in 2 days, and then nothing.  Delaware Way used to write an awesome collection of education blog stories from the past week.  Transparent Christina rarely writes new material these days.  Where has Steve Newton’s voice been?  What happened to Minding My Matters, Fixdeldoe, and theseventhtype?  I understand many of these people have real lives with things going on, but an occasional post about different viewpoints and opinions is missed.  I saw many blogs start in the past year and then they disappeared.

Blogging is free and it takes time, but it is also an essential part of today’s media.  Bloggers are the Wild West, able to post stories along with their opinions.  The audience is there, but they need YOU!  State Rep. Kim Williams is one of the busiest persons I know, but she recently started an excellent blog called Delaware First State.  Christina CBOC member Brian Stephan of Those in Favor now writes for Delaware Liberal.  So what say you Delaware teachers?  Care to give it a whirl?  Please use WordPress so I can reblog your stuff!  And I would love to hear from Kent County and Sussex County teachers!

Poverty Matters! The Smarter Balanced Impact: Delaware Charter Schools

charterPovertyCorrected

According to Delaware Governor Jack Markell, throwing our hands up with poverty is a recipe for the status quo.  As we can see in the above chart, poverty had a tremendous impact in Delaware charter schools.  The higher the low-income status, the lower the Smarter Balanced Assessment scores.  There is no hiding this.  Even the highly-praised EastSide Charter School was not immune to the wrath of the high-stakes test.  Below is part of Governor Markell’s speech he gave at the Imagine Delaware Forum in March of this year:

One of the reasons that we often hear for the struggle of our kids in the inner-city schools is poverty. And it is absolutely true that poverty presents enormous, enormous challenges for many children across our state. They face barriers to learning that the rest of us can’t imagine. And that’s why we need to do everything in our power to lift our children and our families out of poverty and to reach these children from the beginning of their lives, to counter the effects of growing up poor. And we are committed to addressing the root causes of poverty, by increasing access to the best early-learning programs, by investing in economic development and reducing crime and battling the addiction epidemic, and more. But as we pursue these goals we can’t delay improvements to the education kids in these communities receive. I, and I know that many of you, refuse to throw up our hands and say that we can’t truly improve education in these schools as long as poverty exists. That’s a recipe for the status quo, a recipe for fewer of our most vulnerable children to get the skills they need to escape poverty.

What Governor Markell seems to lack insight into or just plain ignores is the impact of poverty on children’s education.  It isn’t something “rigor” and “grit” can fix.  It’s a matter of increasing the funding to these schools, and not under the guise of priority schools or focus schools.  It means lowering the size of classrooms, increasing special education funding, and judging children based on a once a year test the clearly shows how much poverty does matter.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment is not improving education. It is making it more difficult for schools to get the true reform they need.  The Delaware Department of Education will be releasing their school report cards with the Smarter Balanced Assessment carrying most of the weight for school grades.  This is highly destructive to schools that do not do well on this test.  With the Delaware DOE and the State Board of Education pushing Regulation 103 into state code, we need parents to see how that will affect all school districts in Delaware.

This is just the first of many articles based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment and how it affects students of low-income status, students with disabilities, and the most vulnerable minorities in our state.  In conjunction with Delaware Liberal, Exceptional Delaware will be publishing articles in the coming week on this high-stakes testing epidemic that is destroying schools in our state.  This very unique “blog crossover” will paint the picture the Delaware Department of Education doesn’t want the public to see.  But numbers don’t lie.  They present facts that cannot be disputed.  Please come to Delaware Liberal and here to see further articles “Poverty Matters! The Smarter Balanced Impact”.  Delaware Liberal will be covering New Castle County while Exceptional Delaware will be covering Kent and Sussex Counties.  We may cross reference each other here and there, and I highly recommend reading what they have to write, especially with all the potential redistricting in Wilmington and the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission.

A very special thanks to the always awesome Pandora and LiberalGeek from Delaware Liberal, Brian Stephan of the excellent blog Those In Favor, and Delaware State Representative Kim Williams for their assistance in the data collection and formation of the graphs in this series.  This is truly a collaborative effort on all ends, and Delaware is a better place for it!

Delaware State Rep. Sean Matthews Tired Of “Test And Punish” & “Cash In The Trash” Education!

Delaware State Rep. Sean Matthews has had enough!  Something I think many of us agree on!  As the Delaware DOE announced the long-awaited and much dreaded Smarter Balanced Assessment results, folks immediately started crunching the data to see what it all means.  On Delaware Liberal and Those In Favor, graphs were made showing the relationship between low-income populations in Delaware schools and the Smarter Balanced results.  These graphs were very telling, and show these high-stakes assessments are not doing any favors for low-income students.

This is what State Rep. Sean Matthews had to say about all this:

Enough already! The corporate education “reformers” keep pushing their “test and punish” agenda. It’s failed. It’s failing. It will continue to fail until we address the endemic poverty plaguing some of our students.

The millions we spend each year on standardized testing is nothing more than “cash in the trash.” If we just collected parent/guardian’s income levels, we would get the same data. There is a direct and enduring correlation between a family’s economic health and school performance.

Don’t believe me? Check out these 2 graphs. One from Red Clay School District and one from Christina School District. Keep in mind that within each district, the curriculum, teacher training and governing district polices are the same. The only major difference is the % of low-income students from school to school.

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RedClayPovertyScores

Rep. Matthews hit the nail on the head!  None of this is about the kids.  It’s about other agendas which results in schools being labeled and punished.  We have seen this sad tale all over America, in Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans and New York City.  Why is it so necessary to turn public education into something it’s not?  These are the tough schools.  The ones where teachers go to, day in and day out.  They don’t have to teach in these schools, they want to.  They want to help these kids.  It’s not for a paycheck, or to have the summers off.  Their unions can’t protect them too much when a school is shut down over high-stakes testing results. They want to be, if they can, the difference in some of these students lives.  I hear so many stories from adults who came from poverty, and very often, they reference a teacher who made a difference in their lives.

When is America going to wake up and realize these kids don’t need the labels.  They don’t need companies and management organizations coming into their schools to “fix” them.  They need consistency.  They need compassion.  They need what they already have.  But the education reformers don’t think that’s enough.  They would rather test these children, all the while knowing the tests they are giving to them are designed for failure, so they can “turnaround” a school.  It all comes down to money, and it makes me sick to my stomach that anyone would use children in this manner.

Someone genuinely asked me if they should continue to send their child to a school like this or send them to a “high-performing” school.  Every time a parent makes a decision in favor of the latter, they are killing public education, one student at a time.  And that’s exactly what the reformers want.  The data in these graphs says one thing.  These tests are great for those with money and very bad for those without.  It’s not about the caliber of the school, or the teachers, it’s about the world these children live in.  The reformers can’t grasp the notion that if they spent their vast millions upon millions of dollars on actually improving communities and creating jobs, that would do far more for these children than any standardized assessment would ever do.  That would be the real reform our children need.

We keep hearing how the Delaware DOE needs this data, and that parents need it. What does it tell you?  You won’t see these graphs on the Delaware DOE website.  But they are more important than any amount of data they will ever put out.  Thank you Rep. Matthews for saying what so many of us are saying.  You have a powerful voice, and we need you to speak for a long time.

*Thank you to Delaware Liberal and Those In Favor for creating these graphs!