From “Jon’s Loving Father” To Absolute Insanity: The Exceptional Delaware Story

As I delve into year five on this blog, sometimes it is healthy to take a look back at my humble beginnings.  From the crazy legislation I proposed in 2014 to my modern-day attempt to get a Secretary of Education removed from power, it has been a crazy four plus years!  It started out with a plan and turned into so much more! Continue reading

Ex Delaware Military Academy Leader’s Letter To Gateway Lab School Gives Stunning Insight On Charter Schools

Recently, a Gateway Lab School board member reached out to the former leader of the Delaware Military Academy, Chuck Baldwin, for potential recommendations for Gateway.  This was presented at one of their recent board meetings in public session, therefore, this is a public document.  The letter gives certain… well, I’ll let you read it and tell me what you think!  I’m pretty sure those with their Delaware military charter history can guess his date error at first glance but I wanted to present the document as is! Continue reading

Field Trip Funding Bill Would Give Relief To Low-Income Schools

Delaware State Representative Sean Matthews submitted House Bill #282 for pre-filing yesterday which would give $25 to each student for field trips in designated low-income schools across the state.

In order to support enrichment activities such as field trips for students at high-poverty schools, this bill would require the State to provide $25 per student to high poverty schools for the purpose of educational and enrichment field trips.
The bill is co-sponsored by State Senator Harris McDowell with additional sponsorship provided by Senators Brian Bushweller and David Sokola and State Reps. Paul Baumbach, Stephanie Bolden, Helene Keeley, and Trey Paradee.
Matthews sent a note to his colleagues in the General Assembly in asking for sponsorship:

Much of what makes a student successful in school is the background knowledge and outside experiences that a student gets from going on trips. Students that go on trips to museums, historical sites and parks are able to acquire knowledge and life experiences that help them do better in school. Field trips are predominately paid for by parents, so students from families of more financial means are typically able to go on more and better field trips. 

This bill will allow schools with a 50% or greater low-income student population to receive financial support to plan and run educational field trips. The identified schools (see list below…schools are in all 3 counties) would get $25/student and could use that money to plan field trip/s. The money could be combined with private funding (parents, PTA, grants, etc.) in any manner the school sees fit to maximize its use.  Please note that most schools already have policies and procedures to ensure that field trips are educational in nature. 

We’ve spent years trying to “fix” struggling schools with programs and money solely within the four walls of a school. Let’s try something new and get students from schools with large low-income populations out of the building on high quality field trips. I believe we will see real and lasting results. Note: The approximate cost to fund this bill Statewide based on the most recent data on low-income students, is $500,000.

Since this bill comes with a fiscal note, I would expect some resistance to it, especially coming from the Republican side.  As I see no sponsorship from either the Senate or House Republicans, it is hard to tell what will happen with this.  With that being said, I strongly support this bill.  It is a definitive and urgent need for high-need students.  And yes, low-income and poverty is very much a high need.  We have a large amount of students this would benefit which could give tangible and immediate results in their education.  Frankly, I’m disappointed no Republicans signed on as some of them represent districts where some of the below schools reside in.  I can think of a lot of wasteful spending in this state and this would NOT be one of them!

This is not limited to traditional school districts but also charter schools that qualify.  Please support this legislation!

The list of schools:

Elementary Schools: East Dover, South Dover, Booker T. Washington, Fairview, Towne Point, Lake Forest, North Laurel, Dunbar, Banneker, Mispillion, Blades, Frederick Douglas, Harlan, Highlands, Lewis Dual Language, Shortlidge, Baltz, Richardson Park, Mote, Warner, Brookside, Oberle, Bancroft, Elbert-Palmer, Pulaski, Stubbs, Eisenberg, Academy of Dover, East Side Charter, Thomas Edison Charter, Charter School of New Castle, Kuumba Academy, and Academia Antonia Alonso.

Middle Schools: Central Middle, Skyline, Stanton, Bayard, and McCullough

High Schools: Pyle Academy & Great Oaks

ILC Schools: Kent Elementary ILC & Kent County Alternative

Special Schools: First State School, Douglass School, & Carver Center

To read the full bill, please see below:

 

Enrollment Count Report for 2017-2018 & Demographic Information For Districts & Charters: The Rise, The Surge, & The Cherry-Picking!

Which districts and charters saw big jumps with student enrollment? Which went down?  What is the state of special education in Delaware?  What key demographic is rising at a fast rate which contributes significantly to the budget woes in our state?  Which charter school, based on their current enrollment, should no longer be considered financially viable and should be shut down?  What is the fastest-growing sub-groups in Delaware?  And which cherry-picking charters continue to not serve certain populations? Continue reading

Exceptional Winterfest Weekend: No Holds Barred Education Forum!!!!

Blizzard2016

Since the snowmageddon is upon us, I thought this might be a good time to hold the very first Exceptional Winterfest Weekend.  This event will be going on ALL weekend long during the Blizzard of 2016.  Below are the links to discuss education issues.  I want ALL sides of the issues to feel welcome and this will be no holds barred.  I encourage everyone to log in as their real name.  I would avoid personal attacks for all.  I would comment on this thread now to avoid your account going into moderation.  If my power goes out, I won’t be able to moderate comments and release them if you are a first-time user.  I would ask that if you are an elected official to send comments through your state email address to avoid any potential impersonations of elected officials.

I would love to see Governor Markell, Paul Herdman, Earl Jaques, David Sokola, Kendall Massett, Donna Johnson, Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, Chris Ruszkwoski, and Dr. Steven Godowsky come on over and comment.  If any of you have the means to contact them, please invite them to this one of a kind chance to really get to the heart of the issues.

My hope is that by the end of this weekend, if this experiment doesn’t fail miserably, that maybe we can reach consensus on some of these issues in Delaware education.  We are not going to agree on everything, but maybe we can understand the different sides and have more respect for each other’s opinions when all is said and done.  There is no better time than a blizzard to do this, as most of us will be in our homes with our loved ones.

These are the topics, all of which will be under the title of this blog:

Bullying

Charter Schools

Common Core

Corporate Education Reform

Delaware DOE/State Board of Education

Delaware Teachers

Early Childhood Education/Kindergarten

Legislation in Education/General Assembly

Low-Income/Poverty Needs

Parents In Education

Personalized Learning

School Funding

Smarter Balanced Assessment/Opt-Out

Special Education

Traditional School Districts

Wilmington Education

All comments are now turned on.  I apologize.  I didn’t realize these “pages” on my blog had to be individually turned on.  Thank you for your patience!

 

 

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.

Delaware Special Education & Enrollment Numbers Released, Students With IEPs Up 9.5% This Year

The Delaware DOE released the September 30th student counts.  This helps to determine funding units for each school.  Special Education is determined as one of three categories: Basic for 4-12, Intensive or Complex.  There is no funding for Basic Special Education for students in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade, even though State Rep. Kim Williams attempted to get a bill passed during the first half of the 148th General Assembly.  I sincerely hope her House Bill 30 gets passed in 2016, because these kids need this!

For the state, the average percentage of the 19,870 special education students out of the total enrollment of 136,027 is 14.6%.  Traditional School Districts have 18,580 while Charters have 1,290.  To put this in perspective, 18% of students in Traditional School Districts are Special Education compared to Charters at 10.1%.  Had Kim Williams House Bill 30 passed, 2,467 students in basic special education in grades K-3 would have received the extra state funding they rightfully deserve.  Instead, schools get nothing for these students.  This is 12.4% of the special education population in Delaware that is being underserved by a funding issue.

Charter School enrollment grew by 12.7% with an increase of 1,591 students.  Last year, 13,521 Delaware students attended charters, this year it is 14,112.  Five new Delaware charters began this year, but two were shut down last year.  Some of the schools, with Delaware Met loud and center, are having special education issues.

Without further ado, let’s get to the numbers!  For each school district or charter, the first number is the special education percentage, followed by last year, then this year’s student count, followed by last year.

 

Traditional School Districts

Appoquinimink: 11.9%, last year 11.1%, Student Count: 10, 378, last year 9,870

Brandywine: 14.4%, last year 13.3%, Student Count: 10,580, last year 10,740

Caesar Rodney: 15.6%, last year 14.7%, Student Count: 7,221, last year 7,249

Cape Henlopen: 17.3%, last year 16.3%, Student Count: 5,170, last year 5,075

Capital: 18.9%, last year 17.4%, Student Count: 6,486, last year 6,665

Christina: 18.8%, last year 17.9%, Student Count: 15,553, last year 16,255

Colonial: 16.4%, last year 14.8%, Student Count: 9,763, last year 9,825

Delmar: 9.8%, last year 9.1%, Student Count: 1,347, last year 1,367

Indian River: 16.5%, last year 16.0%, Student Count: 10,171, last year 9,842

Lake Forest: 15.9%, last year 14.9%, Student Count: 3,794, last year 3,812

Laurel: 15.5%, last year 15.0%, Student Count: 2,221, last year 2,177

Milford: 14.1%, last year 13.6%, Student Count: 4,119, last year 4,197

New Castle County Vo-Tech: 12.0%, last year 12.4%, Student Count: 4,698, last year 4,629

Poly-Tech: 8.4%, last year 9.1%, Student Count: 1,194, last year 1,192

Red Clay Consolidated: 13.5%, last year 11.9%, Student Count: 16,094, last year 16,302

Seaford: 17.2%, last year 17.1%, Student Count: 3,473, last year 3,509

Smyrna: 15.3%, last year 14.4%, Student Count: 5,233, last year 5,279

Sussex Tech: 6.9%, last year 6.9%, Student Count: 1,444, last year 1,545

Woodbridge: 12.5%, last year 12.5%, Student Count: 2,466, last year 2,384

 

While a few districts stayed the same, it is obvious the bigger districts are actually rising with special education students at great rates.  Last year, the special education population was 17.2% for traditional school districts, but it is up to 18% this year, a 4.4% increase.  I’m not digging the vo-tech numbers and their downward trend.  The vo-tech percentages as a whole are actually lower than the charter average. 7,336 Delaware students are attending vo-techs, but their special education average is 10.4%, much lower than the traditional school districts.

Last year, traditional school districts had 104,388 students and this year they went slightly down to 103,335 for a loss of 1,053 students.  For the four Wilmington school districts, they all lost 1,132 students this year, with the majority of those belonging to Christina which lost 702 students.  The charters gained 1,591 students.  But did their special education numbers rise as well?

 

Charter Schools

* means they just opened this year

Academia Antonia Alonso: 2.2%, last Year .9%, Student Count: 320, last year 221

Academy of Dover: 9.5%, last year 11.7%, Student Count: 284, last year 290

Campus Community: 6.7%, last Year  8.3%, Student Count: 417, last year 410

Charter School of Wilmington: .5%, last year .2%, Student Count: 972, last year 972

Del. Academy of Public Safety & Security: 19.5%, last year 16.5%, Student Count: 303, last year 363

Delaware College Prep: 1.6%, last year 2.5%, Student Count: 186, last year 203

*Delaware Design Lab High School: 20.6%, Student Count: 233

*Delaware Met: 27.9%, Student Count: 215

Delaware Military Academy: 3.9%, last year 3.0%, Student Count: 564, last year 569

Early College High School: 10.5%, last year 2.3%, Student Count: 209, last year 129

EastSide Charter: 12.9%, last year 14.8%, Student Count: 443, last year 418

Family Foundations Academy: 8.6%, last year 5.3%, Student Count: 792, last year 811

*First State Military Academy: 19.3%, Student Count: 202

First State Montessori Academy: 7.4%, last year 5.4%, Student Count: 325, last year 280

*Freire Charter School: 6.4%, Student Count: 234

Gateway Lab School: 60.8%, last year 59.9%, Student Count: 212, last year 212

*Great Oaks: 16.0%, Student Count: 212

Kuumba Academy: 10.5%, last year 6.3%, Student Count: 644, last year 464

Las Americas Aspiras: 8.5%, last year 5.7%, Student Count: 639, last year 541

MOT Charter School: 6.8%, last year 6.1%, Student Count: 1,013, last year 869

Newark Charter School: 6.4%, last year 5.6%, Student Count: 2,140, last year 1,948

Odyssey Charter School: 4.9%, last year 4.4%, Student Count: 1,160, last year 933

Positive Outcomes: 62.7%, last year 65.9%, Student Count: 126, last year 126

Prestige Academy: 27.2%, last year 22.0%, Student Count: 224, last year 246

Providence Creek Academy: 5.1%, last year 5.1%, Student Count: 690, last year 688

Sussex Academy: 4.9%, last year 3.6%, Student Count: 594, last year 498

Thomas Edison: 7.0%, last year 7.1%, Student Count: 758, last year 745

 

Last year, the charters had special education populations in total of 8.6%.  This year they rose to 10.1%.  This is a rise of 14.85% in students with disabilities receiving IEPs at Delaware charter schools, but don’t forget, they also had an increased student count of 1,591 students this year.   They are up a bit from last year’s percentage of 12.7%, which is good.  But it seems like the bulk of new IEPs are going to some of the newer charter schools, like Delaware Met, Delaware Design Lab, Great Oaks and First State Military.  They are all well above the state average.  But the much vaunted “zero tolerance” charter stumbles at the gate with a very low 6.4%.  Charter School of Wilmington more than doubled their special education numbers.  But really, going from .2% to .5% is a joke.   Of concern are the two Dover charters who look like they are experiencing a downward trend in special education numbers.  That isn’t good, which accounts for Capital’s very large rise in percentage.  Down in Sussex Academy, it looks like the bulk of parents of special needs children chooses to send them to traditional school districts over Sussex Academy and Sussex Tech.  My big question though, if Providence Creek stayed the same, and Smyrna went up, where are the First State Military special education kids coming from?  This is a high school, so perhaps they are getting a lot of the Campus Community students that graduated from 8th grade there?  Or maybe more from the Middletown-Odessa area?  Who knows!

For student populations, the charters are definitely seeing upward movement, but one thing to remember is many of them are adding newer grades.  When a charter is approved, they can’t just open up every grade at once.  So it is a slow build.  For already established charters, you see them leveling out around the same numbers from year to year.  If I were Delaware College Prep and Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, I would be very worried about those falling numbers.  Since the districts aren’t adding many numbers in your area, I would assume the bulk of your losses are going to other charters.  So they don’t just take from the traditionals, they also feed off each other.  It looks like the Middletown-Odessa area is having a huge population boom.  Between Appoquinimink and MOT Charter School’s rise, that is a total of nearly 750 new students between the two.  I would have expected Appoquinimink to decrease with the new MOT high school, but that isn’t the case at all.

It is obvious special education is on the rise in Delaware.  But are all schools implementing IEPs with fidelity?  I would find it very difficult to believe they are.  In this era of accountability and standardized test scores, it has to be very hard for the administration and teachers of any school to keep up with it all.  The DOE has so many demands going out to our schools, traditional and charter alike.  And in the next year or so, all of these IEPs will transition to “standards-based” IEPs if they haven’t already.  These are controversial, but many teachers swear they work better.  The jury is still out on that one.

In the meantime, email your state legislators today and let them know they need to support House Bill 30 no matter what the budget says.  The bill has been stuck in the Appropriations Committee for 9 months now.  2,467 Delaware students are not getting the supports they need.  The funds this would generate would give these students more teachers and paraprofessionals.  This is a crime this wasn’t included in this “needs-based” funding.  There is a crucial need, and Delaware isn’t meeting it.

To find out how each school did in the traditional school districts with special education percentages and student counts by grade, they are all in the below report.  Just hit the arrow on the bottom to get to the next page, or hit the full-screen button on the bottom right.

DOE Contract Soliciting Bids To Mix Rodel’s Personalized Learning & Markell’s World Immersion Program

The Delaware Department of Education has a Request For Proposal (RFP) for middle-school students to have “blended” learning in the World Immersion Program.  I called this last October!  Rodel has been pimping the whole personalized learning thing for the past year, and I am sure it will be a highlight of their latest Vision fest in September.  Blended learning and personalized learning are essentially the same thing.  The RFP states they want students in 6th to 8th grade to be able to take their time learning another language.

World Immersion, on the surface, looks great.  But it is having the undesired effect in some schools of causing special needs students and low-performing students to not be able to participate in this program.  It is already making it’s mark in Capital and Caesar Rodney.  Students from one school in a district are moving to other ones because this program is offered at that school.  This is creating a shift to occur, whereby some schools will do well and others won’t.  And the districts are the ones doing this!  Check out the below RFP and please let me know what you think of this latest venture.  I know some teachers who agree with me on a lot who think World Immersion and personalized learning are great things, but I just see it as something that will separate the “strong” from the “weak”.  And don’t forget, this is all Governor Markell’s baby.  What happens to those schools in districts in a few years that have all the most high-needs students while all the “smart” ones are at the high-performing schools learning Chinese or Spanish?  The way Delaware sets up certain schools to fail continues to astonish me!  I’m going to predict this now: either Schoology or 2Revolutions will get this contract!