Archive for February, 2012

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.
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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.

News Journal confirms referendum funding gap, opens door to broader investigation

February 15, 2012 Comments off

The News Journal yesterday verified the observation on this blog last week that:

…in the 2009 Appoquinimink referendum, the state contributed $3 for every $1 from Appo. But for Red Clay’s current referendum, the state is contributing only $1.50 for every dollar from Red Clay.

It was pretty clear from the referendum documents that this was the case. But it is nice to receive independent confirmation from professional journalists.

Raising more questions than answers, the News Journal report also included links to state law here and here, providing formulas for calculating the state share of referendums. State worksheets for the Appo and Red Clay calculations were not provided.

The law prescribes a dizzying series of calculations which are difficult to verify independently. Each step itself requires initial calculations using tax and market information that is not readily available. I worked on it for about an hour last night and didn’t get very far, lacking information required by the formula. At some point I will put up a post laying out the steps in detail, but I can’t devote any more time to it right now.

The formulas are based on assessed value of property in the district. So even if the formulas are followed, the result can be manipulated significantly by the assessment values, and indications are that this is in fact the case.

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Flag on the field, players transfer to new schools

February 14, 2012 2 comments

It’s only a matter of time before somebody tries to start a football charter school:

With Red Lion working way back to DIAA, dozens of athletes depart

The dramatic reversal in priorities resulted in about 40 athletes leaving Red Lion at the end of the first semester on Jan. 27, athletic director Ken Howard said. It’s unclear where most of those athletes are now enrolled, adding intrigue to a long-running saga.

Who and what is the Shared Learning Collaborative? (Part 1)

February 13, 2012 11 comments

Part 1 of a 2 part seriesPart 1 | Part 2

Okay, here we go with another education reform organization, one which Delaware had a hand in creating, and which will be a player in Delaware schools soon: the Shared Learning Collaborative (SLC). Some of its participants are already on the scene here in Delaware. The partners are names you have probably heard before: Wireless Generation, Double Line Partners, McKinsey & Company, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, and more.

The technical notes on the SLC web site are sketchy, so I’ll have to make some educated guesses. But basically: the vendors and consultants who built the new school data systems in Texas and Delaware have gotten together and are now going to give that system away for free, and make a tremendous amount of money doing it.

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An Abbott ruling for Delaware

February 11, 2012 1 comment

If we are looking for ways to add stronger programming to disadvantaged schools in Wilmington or elsewhere, an Abbott ruling for Delaware might be a useful goal for advocates.

In 1985, the Education Law Center sued to address state funding disparities for New Jersey’s most disadvantaged school districts (Abbott vs. Burke). The suit was successful, and created a number of Abbott districts in New Jersey:

Abbott districts are school districts in New Jersey that are provided remedies to ensure that their students receive public education in accordance with New Jersey’s state constitution. They were created in 1985 as a result of the first ruling of Abbott v. Burke, a case filed by the Education Law Center. The ruling asserted that public primary and secondary education in poor communities throughout the state was unconstitutionally substandard.[1] There are currently thirty-one Abbott districts in New Jersey.

Prior to 2011, the State of NJ did not release the total amount spent per pupil on schooling. Since the Abbott original ruling in 1985, New Jersey increased spending such that Abbott disctrict students received 22% more per pupil (at $20,859) vs. non-Abbott districts (at $17,051) in 2011.

The basis of the suit was the provision in the New Jersey Constitution stating:

…the Legislature shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of free public schools for the instruction of all the children in the State between the ages of five and eighteen years.

Delaware’s constitution has the same provision. […] Read more…