Archive for October, 2012

Red Clay closed Monday and Tuesday

October 27, 2012 Comments off

I just got the automated call – due to expected weather from Sandy, all Red Clay schools are closed Monday and Tuesday, including District offices. No word though about whether they will extend the marking period, which ends on Wednesday the 31st.

Everybody stay safe!

Newark Charter applications are here – *facepalm*

October 26, 2012 6 comments

The new admission applications for Newark Charter School are out, with one troubling feature removed and new ones added instead.

Can you find your utility bills?
The previous requirement that you authorize NCS to rummage through your school records pre-lottery is fortunately gone. But now you have to include a current utility bill with your application to prove your address, or the application is rejected with no recourse.

So if you are planning to apply to Newark Charter, hang on to those utility bills. If for some reason you don’t get the utility bill directly, better go ask the person who does get it. And if you are on paperless billing like me, I guess you can just print out your statements from the web.

But most concerning is the possibility that families are living in some situation where they don’t receive utility bills directly, and don’t fit the white-picket-fence homeowner model suggested by the utility bill requirement. It’s not clear whether the parent’s name has to be the name on the utility bill. The instructions on the application say “All applications must be submitted with a current utility bill indicating the service address and the name of the home owner.”

If you don’t have a utility bill, or aren’t sure about the acceptability of your utility bill, I strongly suggest you walk into the school and clear it up well before the deadline.

Realistically, there needs to be alternate procedures for establishing residency.

No habla español
I couldn’t find any Spanish version of the application forms or instructions on the NCS web site. However, board minutes do contain some references to creation of some Spanish-language material.

When is the application due?
It’s not really clear when the applications are due. The NCS website says the open enrollment period ends November 26, while the admissions lottery procedure document says they are due November 21. I’d suggest you get them in by the 21st if not sooner. Given the uncertainty here I’d suggest hand-delivering them to the school and getting a signature, or send them by certified mail.

At any rate, the NCS Open House for K-8 is November 5, 6:00 pm at NCS. I couldn’t find an open house or informational meeting for the high school.

By the way, here’s the 5-mile radius map. If you live inside this circle, you are eligible to apply to NCS.

Essay questions?
There is now a separate application for the new high school, which asks the student to respond to two essay questions (short response inside a small space allowed on the application). I’m pretty sure that is not an allowable part of NCS admissions preferences as per its charter. There is a footnote claiming “*Responses are not used as part of the acceptance criteria for the school.” Fine – then take it off the form.

At any rate the essay questions appear to be optional. The instructions say to fill in the grayed-out areas, and the essay areas aren’t grayed out. So it appears to be safe to ignore them. That’s what I would have my kids do if they were applying.

Maybe it’s a preliminary test for conformity?

What’s so hard about producing a clean application?
Why are they so obsessed with putting obstacles in the way of applying BEFORE the lottery? Can’t they verify addresses and solicit essays AFTER the lottery? Come on people, please just make it a straight-up lottery and remove the ugly appearance of discouraging certain applicants.

About those outreach conditions
It seems like only yesterday, but it was really just last April when Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery approved the expansion of Newark Charter School (NCS) to grades 9-12, but with the following conditions:

…the Department approves the application for modification but conditions that approval on: (1) the development, approval and implementation of an outreach plan to significantly increase, consistent with the public school population it serves, the diversity of NCS going forward; and (2) NCS providing a free and reduced lunch program for all grades starting in the fall of 2012.

Secretary Lowery also sharply noted:

I am hopeful these conditions, coupled with NCS’s full and earnest implementation of them, will result in NCS being more accessible to high need students. However, the Department will review this issue carefully when NCS seeks its next charter renewal and will be inclined to impose additional conditions in the absence of significant progress on this issue. [emphasis mine]

NCS has apparently submitted an outreach plan, and I will post it as soon as I get my hands on it. NCS does have an Outreach Committee and an outreach plan which is referenced in its board minutes. And NCS does now offer free and reduced lunches.

I can only hope Secretary Lowery’s statement is fully supported by the current administration. If so, I suggest the Department should take a look at the new admissions forms now, before the next charter renewal.


Vision 2015 conference open thread

October 18, 2012 2 comments

Well, due to an urgent deadline for my real-life job, I couldn’t make the Vision 2015 conference. So I’m declaring this an open thread, and hopefully some of you who were there can share your impressions, especially if you took part in the afternoon sessions. Here’s the final conference agenda.

I’m not a huge booster of Vision 2015, but I was hoping to get some useful information out of the afternoon sessions. Particularly this one:

Implications of the Common Core standards
Yhis session will provide context on and explore implications of the common core standards – for students, teachers, universities, and other stakeholders. The discussion will also explore what is on the horizon in terms of common core, and how schools in Delaware are rolling out implementation.

“How schools in Delaware are rolling out implementation” was the angle I was interested in. I’ve read the Common Core State Standards, and there isn’t much to be excited about there pro or con – the standards themselves seem fine. The real CCSS action is in the local decisions – the policies, products, vendors, and the technical tools each state will use in its CCSS program. I’ve posted about some of this before (here and here). And I’ve heard some ominous comments from Red Clay officials that due to CCSS teachers will have less latitude in grading, or that due dates for work won’t matter anymore because personalized learning means everyone will be working at their own pace. But I have not gotten any real information yet, so following up on those things is on my to do list.

The second session is just inherently interesting to me, given my interest in parent involvement. I’ve got plenty of strategies schools could adopt to help parent engagement. I’m really sorry I missed this one. I’m sure I would have had a lot to say, and a lot to learn:

Schools that “Get it” – Examples of Meaningful Parent Engagement
Recent research has been loud and clear: the teacher is the most important determinant of a student’s success in the classroom. Yet even most researchers would agree that parents are even more important to a student’s success, not only in school, but in life. Districts and schools across Delaware have taken a look at how they’re engaging parents
and what they could do better and are seeing great success. Join a discussion with administrators, principals, and—most importantly—parents from across the state about what strategies have been working, and how we can improve and support parent engagement—statewide, district-by-district, and school-by-school. Designed for teachers, parents, administrators, school leaders, community leaders, and policy-makers.

The third session was a demo of a PLC (Professional Learning Community). I don’t know how I was planning to go to all of these concurrent sessions, so maybe it’s just as well I missed it 🙂

Transforming Data into Action for schools and students
District and school representatives will reflect on and react to a Professional Learning community (PLc) demonstration. PLcs allow district officials, school leaders, teachers, and other staff to collaborate and make data-driven decisions. The PLc participants in this session will explore the various ways data can be used, such as to build student
accountability/ownership, to support instructional strategies, to ease the transition between middle and high schools, to support parent-teacher and principal-teacher conferences. Designed for teachers, parents, administrators, school leaders, and policy-makers.

Of course, I’d be asking if they had gotten their DCAS data problems straightened out, and I’d be pointing out their data completely ignores daily classroom data, and only looks at big chunks of information like marking period grades and DCAS scores. I might have even asked if they knew their data on homework completion rates (trick question – we collect it but don’t report it or make use of it).

Red Clay parents still needed at RCPAC – Monday 6pm Oct. 15 at Marbrook Elementary

October 10, 2012 Comments off

The next meeting of the Red Clay Parent Advisory Council (RCPAC) is on Monday, October 15 at 6:00 at Marbrook Elementary (map).

RCPAC has been doing an excellent job communicating information from the District to parents. Now each month more parents need to come to the meeting and bring their information to the District! We need your help to put the A for Advisory back into RCPAC!

PTA meetings are indispensable for individual schools, but RCPAC is a way to get your questions and input directly before Red Clay district officers. Of course if you come, be courteous – members and non-members alike should make sure they have the floor before speaking.

The agenda for Monday’s meeting is posted online (click here to download agenda).

Agenda highlights are:

Malik Stewart from the Red Clay District office will present an update to Red Clay’s Consolidated Federal Grant application for FY 13. This application is submitted each year, and RCPAC members are asked to provide assistance and input. The application itself gives a lot of detail and insight into District activities. So if you want to find out what we are telling the Feds we are doing, this document is a good place to start. I had the opportunity to be on the review committee last summer, but wasn’t able to take part, so I hope I can participate next year. I’m looking forward to this update.
RCPAC will be going over planning for its upcoming 5th Annual Red Clay Family Resource Fair, this year on Saturday November 17th at Dickinson. This is a really fun day full of family activities, along with opportunities to learn about Red Clay programs you may not even have known existed. Especially with school choice season opening up November 1, this might be a good time to talk with school and district representatives all under one roof.
The Resource Fair needs VOLUNTEERS! If you can spend part of Saturday November 17th helping with the Resource Fair, please contact the District at the contact info listed on the RCPAC page.

Check your child’s grades and interim reports

October 9, 2012 Comments off

Red Clay parents, time to check grades again, and schedule a conference with the school if you want. All daily grades due by last Tuesday 10/2 should be entered in HAC already, so make sure you review the grades and interim reports online before seeing your teacher. Actually I’d suggest checking HAC weekly or even daily.

To log into Delaware’s HAC system, click here. You can also check out the Parent Powered HAC Help (under construction), and contribute some questions to the HAC FAQ.

Interim Progress Reports are published in Home Access Center (for Red Clay), so no need to wait for them to be mailed. Red Clay K-8 teacher conferences are this Thursday and Friday. The teachers will contact you if they want a conference, but you can contact them and ask for a conference yourself if you want.

These interim reports are anachronisms anyway. If you are just finding out the information in these reports now, there has already been a communication failure. Home/school communication needs to be built into the day and be a continuous process, not some kind of intermission.

These reports come from a time before daily grade and assignment communication was available. I guess at one time you were supposed to climb down off the plow, slick back your hair, put on your Sunday best, and go see the teacher to find out how your child’s schooling is going.