We ask the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE), Secretary of Education Mark Murphy, and Governor Jack Markell to reconsider their stated plans and time frame for the six “priority schools” located in Wilmington. The time frame provided is insufficient for districts and the schools’ communities to develop thoughtful, serious plans for improvement. Instead, the short time frame sets these schools on a path towards closure, conversion to charter and/or privatization (as threatened)—which would result in city children losing their public schools.
The following items must be considered:
1. A comprehensive review of Christina’s Stubbs and Bancroft elementary schools, conducted by the University of Delaware and commissioned by DDOE, released a report in early December indicating that these schools are making significant progress in a range of categories under their current leadership. In fifteen areas, including School Leadership Decisions, Curriculum and Instruction, and Strategies for Students Who Are at Risk, both schools received the highest possible evaluation.
2. Given such positive evaluation by a highly respected and objective organization, the removal of principals from these schools, merely to comply with federal regulations governing turn-around plans, seems arbitrary, capricious and harmful. Firing respected principals and/or teachers without careful evaluation, in order to replace them with leaders unfamiliar with the students and their communities, is a serious disservice to the professionals and children concerned. Doing this would further destabilize high-needs schools that have already experienced significant turnover. A strong school depends on trust among teachers, administrators, parents and students; this must be rebuilt whenever new staff are brought in.
3. The amount of money allocated to the “priority schools” is not enough to reach the ambitious improvement goals set by DDOE. The insufficient additional funding all but guarantees that these schools will close, convert to charter and/or privatize after failing to achieve dramatic improvement with modest resources within a short timeframe. The likely result is that city children will lose public schools obligated to serve every child in their area—in contrast to charters, which demonstrably choose which students and families to accept and retain.
We request that the following changes be implemented in these schools:
1. Provide needs-based funding—additional dollars to adequately meet the needs of low-income, special education and non-English speaking students
2. Institute smaller class sizes for disadvantaged student populations
3. Offer wrap around social services in the priority schools, to address the many factors that adversely impact educational outcomes for their students.
All of us want what is best for the children attending priority schools. The current DDOE plan is not likely to help them and may, in fact, diminish educational opportunity for many.
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