Archive for June, 2013

Buzz Aldrin, rock star

June 16, 2013 Comments off

DOE releases some detailed choice data

June 12, 2013 2 comments

There is some newly published (as far as I know) data on the DOE website covering Delaware school choice on a very detailed level, including per district, per school, charter/VoTECH/TPS, demographics, special ed stats, and even a simple display of “percent meeting standard.” Much of it is data that is not available in other form and you couldn’t reconstruct it if you tried. There is plenty here to keep us all busy. Note that the spreadsheet has multiple tabs.

(h/t commenter openaccess)


BREAKING: President of Delaware Chief School Officers opposes HB 165

June 11, 2013 3 comments

From: Thomas Michael

Sent: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 10:23 AM
*To:* Ramone, Michael (LegHall); Miro, Joseph (LegHall); Baumbach, Paul
(LegHall); Osienski, Edward (LegHall); Kowalko, John (LegHall)
*Subject:* HB 165 Charter Schools

I correspond to you as current President of the Delaware Chief School
Officers Association regarding House Bill 165. There are several
components of the bill in which the Chief School Officers Association has
significant concern and is in direct opposition. The establishment of a
charter school performance fund of $2 million is misguided and one of which
the Chiefs Association is in direct opposition. We do not believe this fund
is appropriate given the fact that many charter schools are selecting
students and creating very much a form of re-segregation. Certainly we do
not believe this was the intent of the charter law but clearly it is the
resulting factor and should not be provided tacit approval by legislative
action. Additionally, the bill provides the Department of Education
authority over the transfer of funds from local public school districts to
charter school districts. We believe this is wrong. If this would be a
good practice, then it would seem reasonable the Department of Education
can also transfer funds from charter schools to public school districts.
Finally, the extension of a renewal term of a charter school for ten years
seems excessive and does not provide reasonable and prudent oversight to
allow a charter school to exist for ten years if it is ineffective, not
holding to its original charter and not making educational progress. Such
an extension would seem irresponsible. ****

Therefore, the Chief School Officers Association asks your consideration in
voting *no* to House Bill 165.

Respectfully submitted,

Michael D. Thomas, Ed. D.

President, Delaware Chief School Officers Association


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