Archive for June, 2013

Blue-Gold football game June 22

June 11, 2013 Comments off

Delaware’s 58th Annual DFRC Blue-Gold All★Star Football Game is one of Delaware’s premier benefit events and is for a good cause, helping those with intellectual disabilities. It’s always a great game, with high school all-star players, band members, cheerleaders, and other students from around the state. And since this is Delaware after all, you are guaranteed to meet your friends and your elected officials (and those who would like to become elected officials!)

The game is at the UD stadium. There’s tailgating, and lots of pre-game activities for kids and grownups. Even if you aren’t sure you can go, pick up a few tickets for the cause. Tickets are available online NOW via TicketLeap and are also available at the door.

Schedule and details will be available here:

It’s more than just a football game. For weeks before the game, the football players and cheerleaders are matched with individual “buddies” who benefit from the programs, and they spend time together at their homes and other events, even if it’s just having a catch. I know this first-hand, because my younger brother with Downs Syndrome was always thrilled when his buddy came to visit. These high school kids really are All Stars. Everybody wins even before the game starts.

In case I didn’t make myself clear…. NO on HB 165

June 10, 2013 5 comments

By way of explanation, I’ll reprint a comment I made this morning on DelawareLiberal:

At a high level, the bill is a referendum on whether we want to embark on an uncontrolled and unaccountable expansion of charters that will disrupt and diminish our public school system. This expansion has never been brought to a vote and has not passed the usual vetting channels that determine where and whether we need a new school.

HB 165 is the enabling mechanism that will launch this expansion. The amount of money is not great, but it puts the camel’s nose under the tent. It’s what the charter movement has been waiting for.

The accountabililty supposedly provided by the bill is a deception. The bill is not a “compromise” and charters give nothing back of value. The bill actually reduces accountability, by limiting valid disqualifications that might derail a charter approval or renewal. And by extending renewals from five to ten years, charters have to face official accountability even more infrequently.

The bill makes a head fake toward taking impact on existing public schools into account, but removes the teeth by removing impact as a disqualifying issue (unless there are other issues as well. This is what public school advovates fear – charters can be plunked down willy-nilly, decimating the capacity and program planning of the districts they are plunked in.

The bill hangs all accountability on the Performance Framework which is designed specifically NOT to include all aspects of accountability. There is no accountability for impact, no accountability for diversity, no accountability for local control, no accountability for transparency. All the Framework asks of charters is that they be wonderful all by themselves within their four walls, never mind what resources they have to displace to do it, and with no larger responsibility to the system.

And then there is the arrogant way the committee deliberations were hidden from stakeholders, with no traditional public school advocates having a seat at the table, and then defending the process as somehow normal. That is the shabbiest treatment of voters I have seen in a long time, and those responsible have work to do to regain our trust on education issues. The way charter forces (including elected officials) tried to wire this bill and rush it through under the radar has left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.


Musing on school rankings

June 9, 2013 12 comments

In my youth here in Delaware, the schools were simply ranked by performance, probably based on some national test. Everyone knew which were the “best” schools and districts. Moms and new brides consulted that list when doing their house-hunting. Now, it is pretty hard to figure out where the best schools are. We have different schools for different things, and buses crisscrossing the county willy-nilly. When I tell people my son is going to Dickinson, there is a visible gasp. But Dickinson has the right programs for him, and I think public perception is lagging behind reality.

It is hard do find that ranking list now, and maybe it doesn’t really matter anymore. The DOE performance pages are fairly impenetrable to casual readers. The white suburban population of the 1960s was very homogeneous and had similar schooling needs, so maybe the ranked list made sense then. But now we are trying to educate all different kinds of kids in the same system.

Our answer to that was various forms of choice, which turned out not to be such a good idea. Before, we had the corrosive idea that ‘To get a better education, you have to move to a different neighborhood.” But now we have replaced that with the equally corrosive idea that “To get a better education, you have to move to a new school.” So we started building White Flight Academies like CSW and NCS.

Why not build the high-quality programs we want inside all our neighborhood district schools?

The answer lies in transparency. Speaking as a Red Clay parent, we aren’t using our powerful new data to find out objectively WHY and HOW and WHEN students are failing. As a consequence our experts have no idea how to design instruction and intervention to prevent failure and assure success. They are just winging it, folks.

And Red Clay’s secret union/District meetings to design policies on instruction and what happens in the classroom are closed to parents. So the two main sources that might be able to inform us on improving education – data and parents – are unwelcome in the very meetings that are supposed to do that.


The missing charter aggregate data

June 8, 2013 13 comments

As debate heats up over the performance of charter schools, it turns out that Delaware’s school performance data provides aggregate performance data for its districts, but not for all charter schools together, a virtual district sometimes informally known as the “Charter District.” There are reports that this data was once available on the DOE web site, but was removed.

A few days ago I put out a call for one or more volunteers to take the data for individual charter schools and to reconstruct a spreadsheet showing the missing performance for the “Charter District.”

Well, at least one volunteer did step up (not me), and the results are here. If you see any errors or think of a way to better present this data, please add your suggestion to the comments. This is just the starting point. This is a community project and is a work in progress, so we expect to be uploading new versions as improvements are made.

1. The spreadsheet [Updated 6/9]

2. An existing UD presentation with additional information on charter performance and demographics

3. And two charts with data from the spreadsheet:

Math chart
(click to embiggen)

Reading chart


Comment rescue: Resegregation

June 4, 2013 3 comments

Comment rescue from Kilroy’s:

Citizen, on June 4, 2013 at 3:24 pm said:

Anyone who does not believe that current DE charter law leads to income- and race-based segregation of public schools should read this:
“Newark Charter School and Resegregation: A demographic analysis.” The author is a Newark resident with a PhD in economics from the University of Chicago (also a UD faculty member, though this is “extracurricular” research)

Will Delaware still honor the Lowery Doctrine?

June 4, 2013 5 comments

Will it even be legal under HB 165?

Established when Secretary Lowery unexpectedly issued the conditional approval for the Newark Charter expansion, the Lowery Doctrine states (my formulation based on her approval letter):

Diversity, consistent with the community it serves, is a condition of a charter school’s renewal or modification.

This statement of basic decency is Lowery’s lasting legacy and gift to the state, if we don’t murder it before it is even tested. Here’s what Lowery said in her conditional approval:

…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]

When I read that letter, I was shocked in a good way. I suddenly realized how pleased and how proud I was to have a strong African-American woman at the head of our DOE.

No doubt the charter movement was shocked in a different way, and began the wired backdoor lobbying effort that led to the Governor’s Workgroup on Charter Schools, and then to HB 165.

Will the Lowery Doctrine even be legal under HB 165?

Left unsaid is whether the current DOE administration even supports the Lowery conditions on NCS, let alone other charters. The next test will come when NCS seeks renewal, and DOE has to decide if it will run the demographic stats again to see if there is improvement, and take action if there is not. We’ll be watching.

Massive document dump from Red Clay’s BPRC

June 3, 2013 Comments off

Red Clay has revealed a large number of documents to be reviewed by the Board Policy Review Committee, normally the first public appearance of a new or revised policy. After the BPRC review, the revised draft is read once at a full Red Clay Board meeting, then voted on at a subsequent Red Clay Board meeting. The BPRC last met in September 2012, and normally reviews policies one or two at a time.

It moves quick, so get your comments in ASAP starting now, and plan on coming to the meetings if you can.

There are two upcoming BPRC meetings: June 25 and July 9 at 5:30 pm, at the District Office at Baltz. Note that you can send in your written comments and they will be read into the minutes of the meeting.

Most of the revisions are non-controversial and don’t change the content, consisting only of reformatting to align with the updated policy manual format. However, there are also some new policies and some policies with content revisions. Click the links in the list below for lists of policies for review:

The Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education recently reviewed and reformatted their policies. The policies are listed below and the board would like to have public comment.
Two sessions are scheduled for the public to meet and provide feedback for board consideration. Click here for meeting information.

To submit feedback on a Board policy under review:

  • Email feedback to Feedback received by 12 PM noon on the day of the Board Policy Review Committee meeting will be summarized and presented to the Board Policy Review Committee for discussion.
  • Voice feedback during the public hearing portion of the next Board Policy Review Committee meeting.
  • Voice feedback during the public hearing portion of the next regularly scheduled Board meeting.

Excel guru wanted for public service

June 3, 2013 Comments off

Any Excel/data gurus out there who are willing to merge some data from multiple spreadsheets and create a new useful data display? Or just give some good instructions so the job can be crowdsourced?

Basically the job is to take data from each charter and create a merged view that shows the aggregate performance of all charters (the “Charter District.”) The detailed data is available in multiple formats including Excel, XML, and character-delimited. I know Delaware has a lot of people who can do this. My faith in the public’s ability to provide this is greater than my faith in DDOE. Contact me at

In a comment over at Kilroy’s, blogger kavips points out a convenient omission of data on Delaware’s school profiles page, just when critical charter legislation is in the House and the value of charters is in question. The overall performance of charters in Delaware is desperately needed public information at this time. But apparently, the overall performance of all charters in the aggregate is AWOL:

Here’s the comment rescue by kavips:

Here isthe proof right here..… OH… MY… GOODNESS…. They took the site down… I guess they were too embarrassed about the truth, especially with sensitive bills up for a vote. But if memory serves me correctly the average across all the charters was a score of 38% scoring basic or above, MEANING 62% OF CHARTER STUDENTS FAILED. And that includes a couple of 90′s averaged down. There were actually schools in the 17′s…Yes really. Compare those numbers to our public schools, even our troubled ones…. Don’t even let anyone tell you the page is down by accident… If you ever saw the scores, you know better.

Blogging overload

June 3, 2013 Comments off

There’s a lot going on this week!

CEB applications due today
Today is the last day for new or existing charters to apply for occupancy in the Community Education Building (for Fall 2014). Decisions will be made by the end of June by a committee of out-of-town carpetbaggers.

This is the second cohort; in the first cohort only Kuumba was accepted for fall 2013. Tomorrow’s charter hearing presumably includes approval of a charter modification for Kuumba.

Oh and by the way, the total number of seats for CEB has been bumped up once again, to 2800.

Charter school public hearing
There is a charter school public hearing tomorrow at 5pm. The formal agenda isn’t released yet, but they can legally publish it up to 6 hours before the meeting as long as it is accompanied by an explanation for the delay.

June 04, 2013
5:00 PM
Charter Schools: Charter School Public Hearings
Department; Education
Host Agency: Charter Schools

Meeting Location :
Cabinet Room, Second Floor, Townsend Building
401 Federal Street
Dover, DE, 19901
Kent County
Contact John Carwell
401 Federal Street
Suite 2
Dover, DE 19901

Purpose: What action to take relative from the Final Meetings of Kuumba Academy and MOT Charter modification applications; and the new application of Pike Creek Charter Middle School.

Agenda: The Agenda for this meeting has not yet been set.
Minutes: Minutes have not yet been published for this meeting
Additional Information: Minutes will be taken
Wheelchair accessible
Deaf interpreter available upon request
Video conference not available

House Education Committee hearing on wired bill for charter slush fund and relaxation of charter accountability (HB 175)

DSEA, where are you on these hearings? This is a chance to redeem yourself after the RTTT MOU blunder. On hearing day, what color are your T-shirts?

Chamber: House
Committee: Education
Chairman: Scott
Room: House Chamber
Date/Time: 06/05/2013 02:30:00 PM
Sponsor : Miro

Sponsor : Jaques

Report on Red Clay SuperPAC meeting
I attended the SuperPAC meeting last week and heard a lot about how much the process involved parents. Ironically, I can’t report on the actual recommendations of the Grade Reporting committee presented partially at the meeting, because they haven’t released them to parents. When I get the documents I will post them here.