Archive for February, 2012

Shenanigans: How a teacher turned an A into a B in less than 24 hours

February 29, 2012 2 comments

A student (let’s call him Al) worked hard in class and earned an A. But it was just barely an A. In fact, on the evening before the last day of the marking period, the grade was 93.01%. You can’t get an A much lower than that.

This irked the teacher. For some reason, the teacher was determined to give Al a B. And he in fact did change that grade from A to B in less than 24 hours, using techniques that included unorthodox micro-assessments, and even falsifying the date of a test.

You might think I am making this all up, but I have all of Al’s documentation. I wouldn’t be telling a story like this if I didn’t have it all documented. People just send me stuff.

This all happened on the last day of the marking period (the 25th). The night before, Al’s grade stood at 93.01%, a hard-won A.

But then on the last day, the teacher struck, attempting to tweak Al’s final average down to a B, by entering two bizarre micro-assessments:

Bizarre micro-assessment #1
First, the teacher inserted an assignment worth 3 points, engagingly titled “Working on DNA.” But this DNA had nothing to do with deoxyribonucleic acid. It stands for “Do Now Assignment.” It is some kind of question that must be answered and handed in immediately. It was so small and unremarkable Al didn’t remember it. It had only been given once before, months ago, and was never given again. And the teacher awarded Al 2 out of the 3 points. Al had in fact done the work, so even this teacher understood he couldn’t get away with awarding less than two points.

[…] Read more…


NO on new school… for now

February 28, 2012 7 comments

For today’s Red Clay referendum – YES on renovations, NO on new school.

It doesn’t feel right to oppose a new school. But in this case there is every reason to hold off until more answers come out. If and when they do, then we can vote for the new school.

Red Clay’s capacity-based argument for a new suburban school was already on shaky ground, as several options for making better use of existing space were apparently not on the table. Red Clay also didn’t help its case by releasing fishy capacity numbers, or by voting to continue to accept choice applications for suburban elementary schools with extra space.

But now the capacity argument has been shattered by Bank of America’s announcement of 2000 privately-controlled charter school seats in Wilmington. The new charter seats will overturn the capacity chessboard all over northern New Castle County. Some of today’s traditional public schools will likely be closed or charterized. The presence of our top political and education officials seemed to endorse the plan, whatever it may be.

Not one brick should be laid and not one new charter approved until we find out:

1. How will high-needs students be supported, both in and out of Wilmington? We have had too many concentrations of low-performing students for too long. It is long past time to address the problem.

But Red Clay doesn’t seem to have its priorities straight. New schools are fine, but there is a good argument that new programs for high-needs students should come first. We can actually afford to do both, so let’s see the programs. And no – charterization of Wilmington is not an acceptable answer.

There is a strong case that opening new schools in the suburbs will leave behind higher concentrations of high-needs students in city schools, resulting in decline of those schools. Pandora at Delaware Liberal presents correlations that indicate this in fact happened to Warner when Brandywine Springs was opened.

2. Exactly what new schools, with what leadership, will the Longwood Foundation install in the new 2000 seat foundation-owned, corporate-funded building in Wilmington? And once we find out, is that what parents really want? The transfer of this building was announced with a fanfare that obscured the fact that nearly no details were provided.

And there is every indication that the BofA building is the centerpiece of a master plan for New Castle County schools that has not been revealed but can be well guessed at.

If we are in fact to implement a master plan that includes charterization of the top and middle performing students, while creating dumping ground schools for the rest, let’s put those cards on the table and vote on it. Is that what we really want? Because that is where we are headed.

To be fair, the problems with Red Clay schools are bigger than Red Clay or any school system can deal with. For the most part, Red Clay is being asked to perform social engineering to fix problems the rest of our civic establishment refuses to deal with. But Red Clay needs to join with parents in seeking answers from itself, from the state, from the county, and from the Federal government.

Critics. especially bloggers, are not off the hook either – myself included. Bloggers are essential and have spoken more truth than anyone in this referendum go-round. But I am weary of debates that always turn toward someone finding a newer and more clever way to assert so-and-so is racist or dishonest, with high-fives all around.

Once the referendum is over we must not go back to sleep until the next referendum. We need to continue to press for solutions and not be satisfied with always being the Party of No. We need to find and promote solutions worthy of our enthusiastic support and advocacy.

NYC to release teacher evaluation data

February 24, 2012 1 comment

Just the links for now. I’ll try to update the post with my own commentary later.

With Teacher Ratings Set to Be Released, Union Opens Campaign to Discredit Them

The New York City Education Department will release the ratings of thousands of teachers on Friday, ending a nearly year-and-a-half-long legal battle by the teachers’ union to keep the names confidential. […]

The union, the United Federation of Teachers, is responding to the release with a $100,000-plus newspaper advertising campaign starting on Friday.

Here’s the first return fire from the union (click here).

Hey teachers – what kind of technology do you need?

February 24, 2012 Comments off

DSEA has a survey up on its front page:

Is there a piece of technology that would really make your job more effective?

Here’s the direct link to the survey form:

So far two people have responded to the survey. One said No, and the other one wants an iPad. So get in there and tell them what you want! Then come back here and add a comment telling us why!

If you want some ideas, check out DCET’s Annual Technology Survey, which takes an inventory of some of the technology devices already in schools.

But don’t limit yourself just to gadgets – think of the back-end systems as well. Ever complain about eSchoolPLUS? Describe the problem, and ask for a fix.

Teachers always have too many things to do, right? So stop in here, comment on what things are the biggest time sinks, and I’ll try to share some tricks the private sector has been using for years to fix those problems, either with technology or by just fixing the process.

International Baccalaureate info night at Dickinson Tuesday Feb. 28

February 23, 2012 Comments off

Dickinson High School will be hosting an Information Night for its International Baccalaureate program on Tuesday, February 28 at 6pm in the Dickinson cafeteria (same day as the Red Clay referendum). I am relaying this from an automated phone call I received tonight.

More on plans for “donated” BoA building

February 23, 2012 4 comments

Last week Charlie Copeland dropped a hint that there would be 4 schools installed in the building. Now another insider gives up a suggestion of what kinds of schools the Longwood Foundation might pick for the former Bank of America building in Wilmington.

Charter School of Wilmington President Chuck Baldwin has been getting some rounds of well-deserved applause lately for his blog post, in which Chuck describes how he stood up to influential friends and parents who wanted special treatment to get their child into CSW.

But also in Chuck’s post was this:

This building, which will be used for education, will allow for successful models to replicate in Delaware (KIPP, Montessori). Schools will be established in the inner city and provide educational opportunities for thousands of our children. DuPont and Bank of America are committing million of dollars in resources and are truly “putting their money where their mouth is” when it comes to education reform.

The picture is getting a little clearer. I get that we are being subjected to a sophisticated rollout campaign for this program, and we aren’t being told everything all at once.

But am I being too cynical to think that the schools for the new building and their leadership have already been selected?

Who and what is the Shared Learning Collaborative? (Part 2)

February 20, 2012 3 comments

Part 2 of a 2 part seriesPart 1 | Part 2

The Shared Learning Collaborative (SLC) asserts that its technology will provide personalized learning, providing access to materials that are aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Let’s dig in and see what they are offering.

Common Core State Standards
If you haven’t heard about the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSS), in a nutshell it is an effort to set common learning goals at each grade level across multiple states. From the CCSS FAQ:

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort to establish a shared set of clear educational standards for English language arts and mathematics that states can voluntarily adopt. […]

Standards do not tell teachers how to teach, but they do help teachers figure out the knowledge and skills their students should have so that teachers can build the best lessons and environments for their classrooms.

For example, if you move to another state in the middle of the year, your child will find the knowledge they are expected to master in the new school not radically different from their old school – as long as both states are following CCSS.

Delaware has adopted the Common Core State Standards and is in the process of implementing them. Delaware’s transition plan and timeline shows currently we are in Phase II, culminating with Phase IV in 2014.

[…] Read more…

Walking back the cat on the BoA building

February 16, 2012 11 comments


First of all, let’s be perfectly clear: Bank Of America did not donate this building to charter schools. They did not donate it to the people of Delaware, or to the children.

They donated it to the Longwood Foundation.

“Walking back the cat” is an information analysis technique, which I first heard about in a classic column by William Safire:

Intelligence analysts have a technique to reveal a foreign government’s internal dissension called ”walking back the cat.” They apply what they now know as fact against what their agents said to expect. In that way, walkers-back learn who ”disinformed” or whose mistake may reveal a split in a seemingly monolithic hierarchy.

So keep that in mind, as we go through and compare the quotes found in the news on Day Zero of the announcement. These are the people who participated in the planning, or otherwise had detailed knowledge ahead of the public.
[…] Read more…

New rules: school capacity

February 16, 2012 4 comments

School capacity must be listed on the official school profiles. Include all flavors of capacity, including building capacity and program capacity. List all programs operating in the building and their enrollment and capacities. Total capacity for each level (elementary, middle, high school) should be rolled up and displayed at the district level.

And while we are setting forth to build dashboards, we need a public dashboard which would replace and surpass the current school profiles site, by providing the additional data and capabilities afforded by the Education Insight infrastructure.

The schools P.S. du Pont built

February 16, 2012 Comments off


The Hagley Museum and Library has released its 2001 film A Separate Place online in a package designed for teachers. Drawing on footage from Hagley, the film documents the schools built by P.S. du Pont for the “colored” students in segregated Delaware.

The film is 53 minutes long, but a shorter version is available for showing in classrooms, and includes a teacher’s guide.

A Separate Place is a documentary film about the ambiguous legacy of segregation and desegregation in African American education. Focusing on the schools built by P.S. du Pont in Delaware, the film is based on compelling interviews with teachers and students whose lives span seventy-five years of African American education.

The film is compelling, featuring many photos of the shacks used for schools in the early part of the century, and then the neat brick schoolhouses built by du Pont. The interviews with former students and teachers in the segregated school system are priceless. The first part of the film describes the system of schoolhouses built by du Pont across Delaware, then the second half focuses on Howard High School and later desegregation efforts.

Also, there is currently a photo exhibit at the Delaware Public Archives, The African-American Educational Journey In Delaware. The Archives also provides three free related e-books.