Breaking News! Governor Markell’s dog has Race to The Top nightmares

Race to The Top is a Trojan Horse for charter schools

We all know Race to The Top isn’t financially sustainable so what’s the real agenda?

Embedded in Race to The Top agenda is the call for more charter schools. So when Race to The Top runs it’s $$$$$$ course there will be 100’s of new charter schools left behind. And for an added bonus, traditional public schools would be crumbling at their foundation due to the brain drain and financial impact. Traditional schools will be full of students whose own parents won’t even advocate for them, more like throw away kids. If Race to The Top is the fix-all for public schools why allow the charter agenda to go full steam ahead?

Yes, I support charters as an option for parents and students. But federal and Wall Street intrusion and influence is dangerous. Every-time a commercial building converts to a charter school there is a loss of property taxes going to the public school district where the property is locate. Because, schools don’t pay school taxes.The Bank of American building donated to the Longwood Foundation in Wilmington , Delaware will result in a million dollars in loss to school tax revenue to Christina School District, same as it did when the Newark Chrysler property now U of D  was taken off the school tax roll.

Pretty sick move Arne Duncan! I wonder which Wall Street Ed company you’ll be working for after Obama leaves office (sooner or later)! Perhaps Joel Kline is keeping you a Wireless Generation seat warm!

Yikes! better get out there and fill your gas tank! New gas $$ spike coming!

Obama moves ahead with Iran oil sanctions

(AP) WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama is moving ahead with tough new sanctions aimed at squeezing Iran’s oil exports after determining there is enough crude on world markets to take the step without harming U.S. allies.

Is another Delaware charter school moratorium in the pipeline?

After last month’s Delaware State Board of Education meeting WOW! DE State Board of Ed raises concerns with charter school performance reports and some inside feedback I am getting there might just be a moratorium on Delaware charter schools.

Perhaps the all the media attention brought on by the Newark Charter expansion request fueled by the school leaders foolish editorial to the News Journal raised some overall concerns with charter school approval and oversight process.

But relax Newark Charter folks, you’re request for expansion is safe. I think the Delaware State Board of Education is closing the pipeline for new charter school application. The renewal process for existing charter is safe but may required serious performance reports by the Delaware Department of Education.

Though everybody signed on to Race to The Top even DSEA, it doesn’t mean the charter school provision within get’s a free ride past the Delaware State Board of Education whose members are direct political appointees of the governor. I think it is about time state board members show some courage to ensure Delaware approve proven successful charter school model that aren’t restrictive and provides equal opportunities for all interested students. If rumors are true that Markell is engaging in private conversations about charter schools, I find it concerning. Markell personally made a mess of Moyer charter school with his desire to flex his muscles proving he can close low performing charter schools> In Moyer’s case, Markell called in his Wall Street K12.inc, buddies. K12.inc failed and Moyer starting next school year is under a new charter but with K12.inc. as a service provider. K12.inc now get’s the money and don’t have to worry being called a failure.

It’s time for the Delaware State Board of Education members to stepup in the name of public education, morals and ethics. I am not saying to ban new charter schools but to make sure the Delaware Department of Education follows the law in proper support and oversight.

Many in the public has loss confidence in the Delaware Department of Education and see that department as a bunch of people walking around on their knees please Governor Markell. DE DOE can’t function on it’s own without Markell’s approval for every action.

If we are to have charter schools, let’s have ones with proven models, not duplicating services provided by traditional schools and charters that aren’t restrictive in preferences. The Delaware State Board of Education to this point has been nothing put Markell political puppet with heads full of sawdust. Leadership that is responsible for Delaware public schools is “fractured”. We need to take the appointment of state board members out of the governors hand and put in legislative appointment with a hearing process and perhaps making those position full pay. Let the governor appoint his secretary of education but at least required the Department of Education answer to the people!

The failure of the Delaware Department of Education and the Delaware State Board of Education can undermine and damaged existing charter schools. It’s unfortunate Newark Charter School’s expansion application sparked so much controversy but it did. And now concerns with charters in general go far beyond the NCS debate. A school being built without a full service cafeteria is a major red flag! Parents of public schools as charter are should have no say or vote in such a decision as that decision impact future parents and students. Yea we can debate no capital funding but we’ll never see capital funding if charters don’t act like public schools. But for Newark he cafeteria issue has been resolved. But honestly, it was the Delaware Department of Education that lack capacity and forward thinking, And because of the naysayers if you want to call them that, you can be lunch and cafeterias will be a critical part of future charter school application and the ones in the current approval process are making modiifications.

Put this way, the Delaware charter school train is running so fast it’s breaks will failed and cause a major charter school train-wreck. Now with Mary Poppins leader the charter school charge she’ll push the charter school throttle so hard it will bring radical changes to all charter schools. Parents current riding the train can’t see what’s down the track but if they don’t wake-up and at least be more objective about naysayers’ concerns it’s their train the might be part of the major wreck. As far as CSD competing with NCS, Glasgow isn’t the answers because DE DOE is in there pulling puppet strings and undermining the CSD school board. Lowery goes to Washington yapping about how she put CSD board in their place doesn’t do a damn thing to improve Delaware’s public school reform. The reality is, it’s  the Delaware Department of Education that needs the reform.

Charter schools are here to stay and I support student and parents right to make that choice. Charter schools like traditional public schools belong to everybody and shouldn’t be high-jacked for those who only care about their children.

I urge the state legislators to start to think about how to build a firewall between public education and a system of political appointees. Let the Delaware State Board of Education represent the people not the governor! We need that firewall!

The shock and awe of dontdestroychristina: Delaware charter school debate

I’ve been getting tons of private E-mails asking that I block dontdestroychristina from commenting and from my blog roll.

I’ll admit she does take things to the edge and beyond. But I think if you are afraid of dontsestrouchristina you must also be afraid of the dark.

Kilroy has never called for an end of charter schools in Delaware but has some serious reservations about the charter school laws. Steve Newton has taken the time to point-out some deep views and opiniosn on charter schools using some data he feels relevant. Dontdestroychristina pretty much goes for the heart with concerns of racism and elitism associated with charter schools.

Taking all in to consideration, I feel it comes down to one real hard question. If charter schools were to be allowed to expand unchecked for the next 10-20 years what will the impact be on traditional charter schools?

We do see some school districts taking proactive action to compete with charters such as with Dickinson High School. Though Race to The Top might come into play with Dickinson the fact remains transformation had begun before the signing of the RTTT MOU. Red Clay also transformed Conrad Middle School into a grade6-12 magnet school and I know for a natural fact that process began way before Obama and Arne Duncan came to power. The reality of Red Clay is NCLB actaully worked to an extent. But for Conrad there is an ugly twist Conrad continues to shed black students. Does Red Clay feel poor minorities are stupid and not see how the new Conrad rolled them under the bus? 

The community has a voice if they chose to stand. Just like what Newark Charter parents did at the last DE DOE charter review meeting. The voice of the community doesn’t always win out. But that doesn’t mean those who feel their views weren’t considered or taken serious should just wither away. There is no doubt a real battle going on with charter vs traditional schools.

If Delaware charter school movement goes unchecked for the next 10-20 years and more charter school added each year traditional schools would crumble. Sounds real good for charter school reformers. But do make note, those charter schools failing to make the grade will also crumble. Some say students are the victims of traditional public schools but yet when a charter school is forced closed it for the kids. Delaware charter school law nor the Delaware Department of Education have no safety-nets to address what happens to those students when charters are forced closed. They try to find other charter schools or forced back to traditional public schools. The state has no plans to ensure those students be placed in schools rate “commendable” or “superior”. Sorry folks, I don’t think the life is not fair analogy should apply. I think some of dontdestroychristina point is, Newark Charter school parents seem to have no concerns with life outside their happy bubble. Gathering coats and food for the poor at holiday time doesn’t always cut it. But parents first instinct is to protect their own and that’s human nature. But when it comes to education many parents don’t see the connection that they must protect their children’s right quality education. Even in the poorest of poor charter school parents see the value of wanting a quality education. Now we look at the re-segregation concerns of charter school. If charter schools were to be the save all why does academic performance seem higher in schools with low poverty than ones with? But always exceptions to the rules. Charter schools nor traditional public schools cure the impact of “existing” poverty. Education is certainly a ticket out of poverty but the lesson plan must include parents and community leaders and charter schools aren’t relevant to that dialogue. Are we rebuilding the Titanic with the same blueprint as the old?

Red Clay uses the failure of a school to justify it’s transformation but were there agendas to make sure a school failed to reopen as a charter or magnet? Dickinson failures could be a result of Red Clay’s charter school obsession in that it failed to see the impact Charter School of Wilmington and a Choice school program. It was the Red Clay school board who allowed Choice expansion at A.I.H.S to a point more space would be added to accommodate those “in Red Clay” who didn’t want to attend Dickinson or Mckean? Yes indeed there were board members who raised concerned. But let’s no forget they were voting on the recommendations of their super. The serious questions might be with the supers.  There are serious reservations about Red Clay school board’s role (some) in charter school expansion. Any charter equation should be part of the total district reform with though to overall impact. That didn’t happen in Red Clay with the last school board. And you can see where a few former board members are today! They seemed to follow their hearts. Indeed their could have be charter Trojan horses within Red Clay. Why are some board member seem to be working with charter school reformist outside the district circle. Yet, let’s no forget school board members are elected public officials that service the interest of the “community”. Charter board of directors are appointed and pretty much serve the interest of the “school”. However, there are charter school leaders and board members who work for the expansion of charter schools in general. 

OK, we’re 20 years out and there are now at-least 100 new Delaware charter schools. Who can describe what traditional public schools in Delaware look like?           Should Delaware continue charter school expansion without a serious impact plan address some of today’s charter concerns?

Dontdestroychristina might be a bit ugly and insulting but there are some ugly truths about Delaware school reform that includes charter school impact. Delaware government’s role in education is to ensure fair and equatable education for all Delaware school age children and they shouldn’t buy into Meece’s baskets of crabs. We’re talking humans here and human impact.  

Markell has some nerve calling for lobbyist law

Markell, legislators want to strengthen lobbyist law By Amy Cherry

“To let more sunlight in on who shapes the bills and the regulations that affect the lives of people in Delaware,” that’s why Governor Markell is pushing for passage of Senate Bill 185, which would require lobbyists to say what bill they’re trying to influence, for which client, and who they’re talking with at Leg Hall.

Jack when are you going to required public schools to report to the public P-Card expenditures ? And what about your little secret charter school meetings? I am with you on the lobbyist legislation but you are a poor example of open government. How about that charter school conduit loan deal Alan involved himself in? Who set the meeting up Jack? I notice in the WDEL recording you want more sunlight on union lobbyist. Why don’t you start by telling us about the deal made with Judas from the teacher’s union? Help Jack roll union members under the bus and he’ll make you Lillian’s princess! Tell us how the Rodel boys secured jobs at DE DOE? What a putz !!!!!!!! 

DE DOE cancels two upcoming charter school accountability committee meetings

DE DOE charter accountability meetings for for 3/30/2012 and 04/02/2012 has been canceled with no explanation. Looks like Meece’s bucket of crabs opened up a can of worms for other charter school applicants. I notice all charter  school accountability meetings before the next Delaware State Board meeting on 04/19/2012 has been canceled. Interesting! One thing for sure is once Markell leaves public office he’ll be great a being a mushroom farmer! He seems to do is best work in the dark :)

Duncan’s federal intrusion in local education deepens

AMERICAN COUNCIL ON EDUCATION: Dear Secretary Duncan (see the list of over 70 higher education organizations filing complaint)

The concern is not that accreditors are expected to examine institutional policies with respect to credit hours. They have and will continue to do so. Rather, the issue is that with little evidence of a problem and no evidence that Congress wants the federal government to intervene in this area, the department intends to use accreditors to extend federal authority over academic decision-making on local campuses.

We strongly support the Department of Education’s goal to reduce abuses in student aid programs that harm students and waste federal student aid dollars. However, the department’s apparent desire to impose a federal definition on a central academic concept threatens to set us on a collision course that will dramatically undermine our support for these regulations.

Just another reason to eliminate the United State Department of Education!

A statistical look at charter school impact: Newark Charter School

Another guest post by Steve Newton

OK I crunched the incomplete numbers available via DOE and a few other sources, and attempted to see where the data led.  The purpose of this exercise is not to suggest that I’m right and everybody else is wrong, or to plead any particular case.  I just tried to follow the numbers where they took me, and good bad or indifferent reported what I found.

I do not know much of anything about the elementary schools in the five-mile radius, so what I am saying here is totally based on my reading of the numbers.  Your own experiences and qualitative data may differ from my abstract conclusions, and you may well be right. I suspect that I have the general outlines of the demographic impact of NCS about right, but that doesn’t mean any of the numbers themselves are actually right; they are at best probable.  For example, when I say X% of African-American families enroll in the lottery, that’s a yearly average that appears to fluctuate up and down by as much as a standard deviation.  But it is difficult to use standard deviations here, because except for the white population in NCS the numbers are to small.  So assume for sake of argument that that I am trying for the mid-point in a ten-point range.  If I say something hits at 25% it could vary down to 20% or up to 30% in a given year.

I’m sure I’ve got some significant errors here, but if nobody starts trying to interrogate the data we will be left using only talking points and name-calling.  That hasn’t gotten us anywhere.

So here goes:

With respect to the impact of NCS on CSD, I have looked at two issues: (1) the impact of elementary enrollment at NCS on CSD schools in the 5-mile radius preference zone and what it tells us about the NCS lottery pool; and (2) the potential enrollment impact of an NCHS on Newark HS and CSD in general.

To look at elementary impact I analyzed first grade statistics for NCS and the CSD schools in the feeder area.  I could not use kindergarten data even though that’s where most of the students for NCS enter, because it is so variably reported, and there are too many anomalies in the data.  First-grade data makes a good substitute, as long as you remember when processing it that the first grade for, say, 2011-2012, represents the lottery draw for the previous year, minus a small figure for changes between the grades (not really statistically significant with a five-year sample).

First-grade data for the schools in question (Brookside, McVey, Smith, Brader, Maclary, West Park, and Downes) also shows extreme variability, however.  For example, we have low-income students reported as 18% in the 2007/08 1st Grade at Maclary, while the next year it rose to 41%; likewise, McVey’s 1st Grade low-income percentage dropped from 70% in 2008/09 to 55% the following year.  Part of this is a function of the small numbers in these buildings, wherein a shift of a few students can dramatically impact the totals, but part is also reflective of the constantly changing demographics of this district. If I had done the regression necessary to account for adverse mobility (which I didn’t, because I was studying NCS primarily and not those elementary schools, it would have gotten even more complicated).

Moreover, the district as a whole is subject to virtually unpredictable demographic expansions/contractions on a frequent basis.

For example, taking the district as a whole, there was a significant demographic “bubble” in 2009/10, when the total 1st Grade enrollment jumped from 1,450 to 1,590 in a single year, before dropping back the next year to 1,462.

It is important, therefore, to look at a single grade to avoid flattening out the variability in the enrollment statistics.

It is obvious that opening up the elementary component of NCS in 2007/08 had a demographic impact on the district.  But defining that impact is not so easy.  The schools within the five-mile radius showed an abrupt drop of about 153 1st Graders; the district had an overall drop of about  236. NCS enrolled 131 1st Graders that year.

A demographic comparison of the decline in the schools within the 5-mile radius reveals that it is statistically impossible for there to have been a 1-to-1 correspondence between the 131 students enrolled at NCS and the bulk of the 150 student drop in public school enrollment, because the ethnic categories and the low-income categories do not match up.

Moreover, as the data on the enrollment lottery suggest below, at least 1/3 of the students going into NCS 1st Grade are students who would otherwise have gone to private school or choiced out of the district.  That suggests that NCS was responsible for a drop of about 86 of the 153 1st Graders lost to those schools (about 56%); the remainder of the loss appears to be attributable to the general decline in enrollment in CSD.

(We should not ignore that general enrollment drop in these discussions.  Parents vote with their feet.  Neither private schools nor charters will thrive in a district wherein the majority of the parents are satisfied with school outcomes, and just because only people who can afford to do so will leave, most studies have suggested that when there is “white flight” or “bright flight” in a district, the families who are too poor to leave share the same dissatisfaction about the system, they just lack the resources to do anything about it.)

That impact has remained fairly constant, with the exception of the afore-mentioned “bubble” in 2009/2010.  The data seems to suggest that between 80-90 1st Grade students each year do not attend CSD elementary schools within the 5-mile radius because they enroll in NCS.  Rippled through 5 grades, this means that the demographic impact on those seven schools is about 60 students lost per school in any given year to CSD.  These losses are not spread evenly:  Brookside and McVey appear to have taken larger losses, Smith and Brader smaller losses.

The data does suggest that the NCS lottery is executed fairly, in the sense that all applications are treated the same (and leaving aside the question of does having a lottery act as a filter; see below).  The variability you would expect in a sample this size is present.  For example, Asian enrollment has varied in 1st Grade from a low of 8 to a high of 23; African-American enrollment from 13-24; Hispanic enrollment from 1-6; White enrollment from 106-128; and low-income enrollment from 9-24.  These are the ranges of variance you would associate with a truly random lottery on the scale being conducted here.

These variances, enrollment figures for both CSD schools and NCS, and enrollment figures for private schools within the area allow us to draw a general picture of the lottery pool. I started with the assumption that, of the 133 places normally available in a class at NCS, 10% of those seats would go to Founder preference, employee preference, and sibling preference. That would be 13 students, who would generally break down to 8 White, 2 Asian, 2 African-American, and 1 Hispanic/”other” [from here on out, I will include Hispanics with “other”–multi-racial, Native American, etc., because the small Hispanic numbers are too highly variable).  If the number is actually higher or lower in a given year, it only changes the total numbers and not the percentages below.

That leaves 120 seats up for grabs in the lottery. Looking at the data extensively (and it would take about seven pages to go into my calculations), I reached the following conclusions about who applies for the NCS lottery:

1–Over 80% of the White families eligible for the lottery, whether their children traditionally attend public or private schools enroll themselves in the lottery.  There are a lot of people “on the cusp,” who are getting ready to pay for private school but view the lottery as just that–a lottery that has a very real cash pay-out if they win.  At a guess (educated but still a guess), I’d say that 70% of Whites in public schools and 85% in private schools participate in the lottery. This is perhaps counter-intuitive, but the 1st Grade data for NCS suggests that a slightly higher percentage of the 20% of families traditionally in private schools are getting through the lottery filter. If the lottery is honest (as presumed above), then they have to be enrolling in higher numbers. So while NCS does have a strong general attraction for the White families in the district whose kids traditionally go to public schools, it appears to have an even stronger attraction for those whose kids either traditionally or conditionally go to private school.

2–About 75% of the Asian families eligible for the lottery, whether their children traditionally attend public or private schools enroll themselves in the lottery.  This seems counter-intuitive based on the high percentage of Asians at NCS comparative to their representation in the district, but it isn’t.  There are a small number of Asians, relatively speaking, in the radius schools, and for whatever reason West Park has been extremely successful not only in holding but expanding its Asian-American population even in the face of competition from NCS.  The 15-20 Asian students in the West Park 1st Grade are a significant percentage of total Asian population in that demographic.  What I guess here is that about 60% of Asians in the public schools (with that other 40% mostly in the West Park feeder) and 80% in the private schools sign up for the lottery.

3–Less than 40% of the eligible African-American families participate in the lottery.  Assuming that the lottery is not conducted dishonestly, this is the only way to account for the low percentages of African-American students in the NCS 1st Grade enrollment.  The difficulty with the small numbers is the inability to tell whether the annual variation is driven by lottery chance or yearly changes in how many African-American families participate in the lottery.  My guess is that both dynamics are in play, but that lottery chance has the bigger impact.

4–About 33% of the students enrolled in NCS are students who would otherwise be enrolled in private schools or choiced out of the district.  If this was not the case, the demographic impact on the elementary schools in the 5-mile radius would be more pronounced than it is. I think everybody pretty much knew this already, but it is useful to confirm it via the numbers.

With respect to the potential impact of an NCS high school, I analyzed the NCS 8th grade classes, the CSD 8th and 9th Grade classes as a whole, and the Newark HS 9th grade classes over the past 5-6 years.  There are some anomalies in the data (according to what’s on the DOE website, CSD had EXACTLY the same enrollment in 2010/11 and 2011/12, which is so statistically unlikely as to suggest data entry error).  But the individual enrollments for the schools suggest no major data spike in that time, so I didn’t worry about it too much.

What the potential NCHS data suggests to me are the following conclusions:

1–At this point probably 60-70% of NCS 8th Graders in any given year are NOT going to high school in CSD right now.  Between 97-113 students (call the average 105 of 161) are going to NCCVT, choicing into other districts, moving, or going to private high schools.  We can expect that number to remain fairly constant even though CSW in Red Clay has reduced the number of out-of-district choice students it accepts; very likely that slack will be taken up by the new IB program at Dickinson within 2-3 years.

2–That means that NHS is getting about 56 freshmen from NCS in a really “good” year for NHS–I suspect that despite my calculations the real number is closer to 40.  But for purposes of talking about NHS, let’s use the higher number.  NHS averages 473 incoming freshmen per year, which eventually means that this drop to about 417 would, in four years, cost the school around 180 students (allowing for the usual attrition).  BUT … NHS is currently has 177 choice students, which actualizes out as the school accepting about 50-55 per year (curiously, almost exactly the same number of students I believe NCS is sending there).  If we make the assumption (which I don’t think is a huge leap) that many of those choice students are either coming for AP classes and/or the Cambridge program, this suggests that the impact of an NCHS will be felt primarily by Glasgow and Christina High Schools, not NHS. To explain: there are plenty of parents at both of those high schools who are consistently trying and failing to get their kids into NHS, just as there are large numbers of parents failing to get their kids into NCS. What I am suggesting is that by doubling the choice acceptance rate at NHS, we would see about 20 students from each of the other traditional CSD high schools, and probably another 10 from outside the district.  This would more less eliminate the impact of an NCHS on Newark High over a period of 3-4 years, while leaving Glasgow and Christina each down about 70 students.  Ultimately, I think most of the unit count losses would occur at those two schools not NHS.

This is all highly speculative, and based on many statistical assumptions.  I would be glad to share each step of the number crunching and the assumptions that went into them, but to try to lay them all out here would create  post so long that nobody would want to wade through it.  This one is already long enough.

Also by Steve Newton:(You can’t take poverty out of the equation in comparing school district performance)

Newark Charter modification application might be in jeopardy

Mike O raised some concerns the Newark Charter requested previous school records as part of the application process. I pretty much said he was full of shit because, Newark Charter does not use a specific interest preference as Charter School of Wilmington and they “only” use the 5 mile radius , sibling preference and employee / board children preference. well here it is, a copy of Newark Charter School 2011-12 application. READ THE FINE PRINT AT THE BOTTOM!

“Signing this form authorizes Newark Charter School to access this student’s school records for purposes of evaluating this application”

Holy shit !!!!!!!!!!! Smoking gun on this one Mike O. Why do they need this information prior to applicant being admitted?? NCS does not use specific interest preference!!!!!!!!! Looks like someone is playing a slick game of cherry picking or something!  Hey Lizzie, somebody needs to come clean :) I wonder are some of these applicants being counseled out prior to the lottery? Hey DOE Dan, what do you make of this? I am shocked!!!!!!!!!!

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