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Feds issue updated enrollment guidelines

May 9, 2014 Comments off

Delaware’s Enrollment Preferences Task Force (next meeting May 22) is currently pondering which questions may be asked on school applications (for example, before a charter lottery) and which may be asked only upon enrollment. See this post for more background.

In timely manner, yesterday the US Secretary of Education and the US Attorney General issued updated guidelines on enrollment:

Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder today announced updated guidance to assist public elementary and secondary schools to ensure enrollment processes are consistent with the law and fulfill their obligation to provide all children — no matter their background — equal access to an education.

The clarified guidelines are aimed mostly at making sure undocumented children are not prevented from enrolling in public schools. But Delaware’s top performing public charters tend to have incongruously low enrollment of low-income and minority students, whether undocumented or not. Delaware’s public charter, vocational, and other choice schools would be advised to read the guidelines carefully and review their supplemental application materials.

The English guidance documents:

The Spanish-language guidance documents:

For example:

Q-8. How can a school district distinguish between (a) information that it should or must collect, and (b) information that it may not collect because doing so may discourage enrollment or attendance?

A-8. There is typically only minimal information that a district is required to collect under state law for a student to be able to enroll, such as proof of age, immunization history, and residency within the district. Both the state and the district must act in compliance with the U.S. Constitution and valid Federal or state laws, including their obligations not to discriminate, or implement policies that have the effect of discriminating, on the basis of race, color, or national origin. In doing so, states and districts should also assess their current policies to determine whether they are doing anything that may have the effect, albeit unintended, of discouraging the enrollment of undocumented children, such as asking for immigration papers or social security numbers, or requiring a driver’s license or state-issued identification from a parent. Such practices and policies,once identified, should be changed to eliminate any possible chilling effect on enrollment.

This echoes the guidance from the Delaware Attorney General’s office:

While it may be advisable as the best practice for an RLEA to have a two step process separating admission and enrollment information, it is not legally mandated. Each RLEA has the legal responsibility to ensure that they are complying with state and federal law and in doing so they should review their application process and practices carefully to make sure they are consistent with the law and do not have a chilling effect on the enrollment. (emphasis mine)

Also from the new Federal guidelines, note that while districts may collect social security numbers, it may NOT deny enrollment if the number is not provided (so what exactly do schools use Social Security numbers for anyway? Why have them on an application at all?)

A school district that opts to request social security numbers should make clear in all enrollment and registration documents, including forms, websites, and communications with parents, that the provision of the child’s social security number is voluntary, and that choosing not to provide a social security number will not bar a child’s enrollment. […] Similarly, a school district cannot deny a student enrollment if his or her parent chooses not to provide his or her own social security number.


Red Clay CLOSED today due to flooding of bus yards

May 1, 2014 2 comments

At least it’s not snowing. Happy day off, kids! Be careful out there, and stay out of the water.

From the Red Clay website:

Due to heaving rains, bus yards of Red Clay Transportation Contractors are flooded. Without the ability to transport students, Red Clay Schools will be closed today. All teachers and staff members are to report as scheduled.

Those “heaving rains” are the worst kind!

Megacharter update: capacity balloons to 2800 students

April 9, 2014 4 comments

The Longwood Foundation-sponsored Community Education Building will accept another round of applications this spring for occupancy in the fall of 2015. This round of applications is for middle and high schools only. Current tenants are Kuumba Academy (K-8) and Academia Antonia Alonso (K-5), which will move in by this summer.

Since its announcement in 2012, the planned capacity of the building has ballooned to 2800 students.
. This comes at a time when six charters are up for either initial approval or expansion this spring. One of them (Great Oaks) has met with CEB about locating in the building.

A while back I wrote:

…northern Delaware is in fact on the cusp of a dramatic charter expansion not approved by any voters. […]The underlying risk is that a greatly expanded charter presence would harm traditional public schools, at worst turning them into second-class dumping grounds and forcing Districts to close or repurpose schools. Suburban parents who are used to tuning out Wilmington issues should take note: the new mega-charters will have an impact on suburban schools.

And in fact, the Red Clay board cited negative charter impact on its schools when it voted to oppose HB 165 last summer, which provided additional funding and relaxed oversight of charters. The bill passed over the objections of the state’s most populous districts (Red Clay, Christina, and Capital), which predictably started the current gold rusn of charter applications.

This year, Red Clay wrote a letter to the State Board of Education detailing the negative impact the new charters would have on the district, and warns that:

“Three high school openings in one area would necessitate the closing of another school.”

CEB has also announced the building will provide “wrap-around life services (healthcare and wellness services, after-school enrichment, etc.” So far, no word on how organizations should apply, or which services will be available.

Timeline for the current CEB application process is:

Application instructions and data template released – April 28, 2014
Deadline for submission of written application and data template – COB May 30, 2014
Notification of Finalists by June 13, 2014
Finalist In-Person Interviews by June 27, 2014
School selection notification by July 15, 2014

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High school band festival Thursday night

April 9, 2014 Comments off

High School Band Festival April 10

The 2014 High School Band Festival will be held on April 10, 2014 at John Dickinson High School Auditorium at 7:00 pm. Admission is free; donations will be accepted in support of the Red Clay Education Foundation.

Concert bands from each of our five high schools will be participating. The evening will also feature an exhibit of student artwork from AI DuPont, Cab Calloway, Dickinson, and McKean High Schools.

This program gives Red Clay the opportunity to showcase the abilities of our students and their directors. Musical and artistic experiences offer students a lifetime of personal enjoyment and meaningful expression. Parents, friends, and community members play a vital role in supporting the Performing Arts Curriculum for all students. Please join us to share in the joyful sound created by these talented students.

(from the RCCSD web site)

Red Clay holds TAG meetings this week

April 7, 2014 Comments off

Red Clay is holding several parent forums this Tuesday and Wednesday on its TAG programs (Talented and Gifted):

Marbrook and Highlands elementary schools
6:00pm – 7:00pm

Parents of TAG students have been invited to talk about the current enrichment/TAG program from their point of view. Red Clay is looking to learn the program’s strengths, concerns, and ways to improve the program.


Linden Hill Elementary School
6:00pm – 7:00pm

This event occurs on a single day.

AVID for the rest of us: parent forum Wednesday

April 4, 2014 5 comments

Next week Red Clay will be presenting a session on its AVID program as part of its Parent University series. AVID is a promising new program that should be expanded in Red Clay and needs to be given a push by parents. Please attend if you can!

Parent University – What is AVID ?
Conrad library
6:00pm – 7:00pm

AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) is a national college readiness program aimed at average students. Unlike other programs for either advanced students or remedial students, AVID is aimed squarely at the academic middle. AVID students are guided toward honors courses and more challenging curriculum, and are given extra support to help them succeed.

I thought this was supposed to be standard. Lord knows why we need a special program to do this, but apparently we do.

In Red Clay, AVID is implemented only at the high school level. However, it seems to me AVID is desperately needed in our middle schools, and elementary as well. AVID appears to be further along in the Brandywine School District; at least I could find some information there. In Brandywine, AVID is for grades 6-12. Perhaps some Brandywine parents could comment?

The national AVID web site describes the different elementary and secondary programs:
AVID Elementary (national)
AVID Secondary (national)

There is nothing about AVID on the Red Clay website (at least I couldn’t find anything in its inscrutable and chaotic new Edline redesign). But I was able to collect some information from Red Clay,

AVID students are enrolled in an additional class to provide life skills, study habits, and a general aspirational, college-oriented mindset. This is a also a holistic effort that seeks support from parents and other students who provide mentoring and tutoring. From the AIHS AVID parent letter:

In addition to direct instruction in the AVID curriculum, college students, high school students and volunteers will provide tutorial assistance. These tutors will work with the students in small groups and individually. The tutors will use students’ notes and questions from their academic classes to help the students understand learn course material. Tutors will not give students the answers to their questions; instead they will help them work together to discover the answers. Because our AVID tutors are successful high school and college students, they become excellent role models.

And a summary:

AVID Summary
Red Clay is excited to participate in AVID for the first time in 2012-2013. AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) students have college as a goal, are motivated to succeed in school, would like teacher and tutor support to achieve their academic goals, have families that support their goals and are enrolled in college preparatory courses.

AVID students learn study, organizational and time management skills. There is also a focus on note taking, writing, research, library, computer and career skills. In addition to direct instruction in the AVID curriculum, college students, high school students and volunteers will provide tutorial assistance. The tutors will work with the students in small groups and individually. The tutors will use students’ notes and questions from their academic classes to help the students understand course material. Tutors will not give students the answers to their questions; instead they will help them work together to discover the answers. Because our AVID tutors are successful high school and college students, they become excellent role models. They keep the students aware of academic expectations at the high school and college levels.
The mission of AVID is to ensure that average students (“students in the middle”) who have the potential to be successful in a college preparatory path will: succeed in a rigorous course of study, enroll in four-year colleges and universities, enter mainstream activities of the school, and become educated and responsible participants and leaders in a democratic society.
AVID students enroll in at least one honors or advanced placement class each year they participate in AVID and take a course of study designed to prepare them for college acceptance upon graduation from high school. They are eligible to participate in the AVID elective all four years of their high school experience. AVID is an academic class that meets daily to provide students with study skills instruction, motivational activities, and career and college exploration.
In late July, Red Clay sent 32 representatives (admin, teachers, counselors) to the regional AVID Conference in Philadelphia. The conference outlined the philosophy of AVID, the application process, the supports from the organization, etc. In Red Clay, AI High, McKean, Dickinson and Conrad will all have AVID classes in session this Fall.

Enrollment Preferences Task Force meeting cancelled and will be rescheduled

April 4, 2014 Comments off

Monday’s meeting of the Enrollment Preferences Task Force (meeting #5) is cancelled and will be rescheduled, according to co-chair Kim Williams. Stay tuned for the new date.


April 2, 2014 Comments off

I am not normally a fan of the “mommy blog” genre, but for Traci’s Blog at Brandywine Buzz I will gladly make an exception. Buzz co-founder Traci Murphy (“the ‘voice’ of the Buzz”) transcends the genre and is one of the Delaware blogosphere’s better writers. Traci’s blog is smart, funny, and sometimes even lyrical. I read her blog as a reminder to keep trying to freshen up my own utilitarian writing style, and above all to be nice. And after all, aren’t the so-called mommy issues really at the heart of parent involvement? My wife and I share the child care load – it just works out that way – and sometimes I’m a mommy too.

I have been using Brandywine Buzz’s excellent weekly events calendar for a while, for exactly the reason the Buzz says: To answer the eternal question “What are we doing with the kids this weekend?” But I only recently realized the Buzz also features Traci’s blog.

Here’s some of what Traci had to say about the Red Clay inclusion vote, that really brought out how unusual that level of parent involvement was. I think Red Clay may have awakened a sleeping giant:

Some mama (and papa) bears did some real roaring lately, and real change happened. It was startling to watch. […] And thoughtful and articulate letters to the editor appeared in the News Journal and DelawareOnline. And then RCCSD board members were showing up at roundtables at schools, and these mama and papa bears, as exhausted as they were from moving A to B to C (plate to counter to dishwasher, homework to folder to backpack, self to shower to carline) were leaving their families at night to attend evening meetings, backing up their passionate opinions with statistics and examples and real questions that didn’t have answers yet. Voices were raised, and they were heard. Questions were asked, and they were answered. This week, the Red Clay board voted against the adoption of inclusion right now.

Go read the whole thing at Brandywine Buzz. Or click the Brandywine Buzz link now featured on my blogroll.

Then stop back in and let us know: What are you doing this weekend?

Take the 2014 Red Clay parent involvement survey this week

April 1, 2014 Comments off

Take the Red Clay parent involvement survey; it is open until Friday, April 4. Online at

science Expo at Highlands Elementary tonight

April 1, 2014 1 comment

A great project by Charter School of Wilmington to realize its potential to share educational improvement in Red Clay beyond the walls of their own school:

6-8 pm tonignt, Tuesday April 1 at Highlands Elementary

Approximately 70 students from Kindergarten through 5th grade are submitting projects to compete at this inaugural Science Expo. Thirty-five of these students have been participating after-school in Charter School of Wilmington’s Science Ambassadors program, a STEM mentoring program developed and administered by Cheryl Potocki, a CSW math teacher, and implemented at the school in collaboration with Ms. Froemming. These students have met weekly with their CSW student mentors over a special six week session designed to support them in working on science projects to submit for presentation and judging during the Science Expo…
[read more]