Is Delaware charter schools losing their luster re: modification to “reduce” enrollment

Prestige Academy 

Summary of request – Prestige Academy has applied for a modification to change its grade configuration (eliminate grade 5 and serve grades 6-8), change the number of approved students, and the number of instructional days in the school calendar. The school stated that the request is one part of a broader strategy and series of school-wide actions to improve student performance.

 Student enrollment – The school responded that it currently has 34 student applications for next year. The school indicated that it is recruiting by sharing information about positive things happening at the school, including the new STEM pathways, student supports. The school indicated that they just sent out a large mailing and continue to receive calls from prospective parents interested in visiting the school.

Conclusion: Mr. Blowman asked if there were any additional questions about any section of the application. None were noted. A motion was made and seconded that the Major Modification Application be recommended for approval. All six voting CSAC members voted “yes” in favor of a recommendation for approval.

Delaware Design-Lab

A summary of the request – Delaware Design-Lab High School (“Design-Lab”) has applied for a modification to decrease the school’s authorized enrolment by more than 15%. In school year 2016-17, the authorized enrollment would decrease from 475 to 350 students (26%). The school explained that the Delaware market presented unique recruitment challenges than other Design-Lab locations. Additionally, the board determined that a lower enrollment would have a significant positive impact on the school’s culture and learning environment.

Conclusion Mr. Blowman asked if there were any additional questions about any section of the application. None were noted. A motion was made and seconded that the Major Modification Application be recommended for approval. All five voting CSAC members voted “yes” in favor of a recommendation for approval.

Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security 

A summary of the request – Through its major modification application, the school seeks to reduce its authorized enrollment target by 22% from 480 to 375 students over five years, beginning with a 2016-17 target of 330 students. This year’s enrollment currently stands at 303 and the school is having its strongest financial year. The modification request is doable from a financial and staffing standpoint, and is a cultural “must.” The school has initiated a strategic plan and has changed its policies and procedures. Finally, the school has reviewed data and has determined that the requested enrollment is a more practical reality based upon the school’s location.

 The CSAC Initial Report was issued on January 29, 2016 and did not identify any areas of concern with the application.The applicant did not submit a response to the CSAC Initial Report.

Conclusion: Mr. Blowman asked if there were any additional questions about any section of the application. None were noted. A motion was made and seconded that the Major Modification Application be recommended for approval. All five voting CSAC members voted “yes” in favor of a recommendation for approval.

With such a demand for charter schools you think these charter school wouldn’t be struggling to provide services.  

Historically when charter school request major modification to reduce enrollment there tends to be underlying financial structural weaknesses.

Delaware state legislators turn a bind-eye to the fact charter schools don’t submit to the public a preliminary budget and a final budget annual as traditional public school districts do. And forget about a financial positioning reports! What you see is monthly report that tend to end the year with carryover amount but in actuality there unpaid vendor invoices could carried over into the next fiscal year.

This is from Prestige’s Annual Financial Report Year End June 30, 215 (page 10)

FACTORS EXPECTED TO HAVE AN EFFECT ON FUTURE OPERATIONS The School funding is dependent upon student enrollment. Any decrease in student enrollment can significantly decrease funding. In May 2015, The School came under formal review by Department of Education due its declining enrollment. The School provided a plan to increase enrollment and a budget to show that the school was economically viable at its current enrollment number of 213 students. DOE will continue to monitor The School’s progress over fiscal year 2016. In the event the school is unable to increase enrollment to the School’s chartered enrollment, the School could be subject to revocation of its charter. Enrollment has increased significantly since the School came under formal review and it is Managements belief that enrollment will meet the required number during fiscal year 2016. Management reviews monthly the actual performance against budget to timely respond to any significant variances. In addition, resources will need to be acquired to support program expenses not adequately funded at the federal and state level. In anticipation of these events, the School is taking steps to increase the percentage of funding from nongovernmental resources 

This reinforces my opinion decrease enrollment causes unfavorable financial pressure.

Currently Prestige has 224 student (grades 5-8 with 34 student in grade 5. Make note, last year grade 5 enrollment was 44 student, 10 more.  Also last year there were 79 students in grade 7 whereas this year only 48, 31 less 7th graders. However, I have a suspicion there is a data error in DE DOE’s report. But nevertheless, there out reports raises financial concern in regards to student enrollments. With that being said, look at the numbers, the elimination of grade 5 will cause enrollment to fall below the 200 student enrollment threshold and raise another flag in regards to financial viability. Come on Hef, go read the numbers yourself!   

In my opinion, the state board of education lacks the critical thinking capacity to digest the call for reduction in enrollment isn’t about maximizes the quality of education but more red flags to underlying financial concerns.  

So the DOE Charter School Accountability Committee gives thumbs up on these major charter school modification and odds are the state board will rubberstamp them.  

 

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17 responses to “Is Delaware charter schools losing their luster re: modification to “reduce” enrollment

  1. Publius e decere

    “Is Delaware charter schools losing their luster ..”

    Really?

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  2. lastDEconservative

    Ouch, Publius.

    So, Kilroy, great reader of reports (and listener to minutes). Remind me why the TPSs aren’t required to manage their enrollment/population under the same scrutiny? Or why, when the TPS population falls, some of the taxpayer money is refunded?

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    • kilroysdelaware

      TPS can refuse any student that live within their districts even illegal immigrants. Request for reduction of enrollment is a big red flag! When enrollment falls in TPS the most of the local share follows students to charters.

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    • Publius e decere

      LDC,

      Nice concept. Falling TPS+charter enrollment (e.g., kids attending private or parochial schools) should generate a credit or rebate to the taxpayers. I’ll noodle this one. Thanks for the idea, you get the props.

      Publius

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    • lastDEconservative

      Eager to hear how your contemplation turns out. And chuckling that you alone among the denizens knew that I inadvertently left out “not” between is and refunded.

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  3. The charters are starting to run out of students who are above average.

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  4. It’s called a saturated market. All of the charter schools above are in New Castle County. There are only so many students to go around. Yet, charters have historically been approved by the DOE/State board without any consideration of the market. Then take into consideration that charter schools unnecessarily limit themselves by sometimes aligning to a narrow special interest and, yes, some charters loose luster. Prestige is an all boys school. That’s pretty limiting. No girls. Design Lab is focused on STEMD -D for Design. They are appealing to students who are interested tracking visual arts into a design career. DL’s model is also one that predicated on being in a dense urban location. And DAPSS – how many 8th graders know that they want to go into Safety and Security?

    The second issue at hand is culture. And it takes time to build culture. Delaware MET is THE prime example of school that did not build culture out of the gate. It was an immediate failure that was allowed to drag on for all too long. I’m sure MET has given several charter schools pause – an unhappy student body is transient student body. Bad culture feeds attrition. Struggling charter schools face the same problem that traditional schools face: Students leaving for the perception of greener pastures.

    As a parent in Christina, each school my children attended already had a long-established identity and culture, developed over decades or longer. Charter schools do not have this built in and those leaders are learning that you have invest in culture in order to establish a strong school – even if that means delaying your growth as approved in your charter.

    It’s a smart move when done proactively and not re-actively.

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  5. “All of the charter schools above are in New Castle County. There are only so many students to go around. ”

    The charters and selective magnet schools will have an expanded market to select from when the Christina students are redistricted to Red Clay.

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  6. The idea of moving students CSD to RCCSD allows for a limited one-time expansion for the magnet schools and the charters give first priority to Red Clay Students. The benefits fall more on the side of families and students who will suddenly have a much greater variety of middle school and high school program to apply.

    The three schools above are not chartered by nor offer preference to Red Clay. The WEIC plan will not generate a greater enrollment for them.

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    • ” The benefits fall more on the side of families and students who will suddenly have a much greater variety of middle school and high school program to apply..”

      True for a few. All the students in the redistricted schools will become Red Clay students and will suddenly have in-district priority for CSW, Cab, DMA, Odyssey, etc. Those schools will become even more “selective,” meaning a few will be selected and most will remain in their feeder schools, which will be decimated by “brain drain.”Sure there is choice, but look how many Red Clay schools are closed to choice. Red Clay (shall/may) have an extra $7.5 million but I don’t expect it to go far enough move school performance off “priority” levels.

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  7. Quick question – how does “brain drain” effect the performance single student learning at a feeder pattern school? How does “brain drain” decimate schools? What decimates schools is a lack of parenting. Teachers are not parents. We do not raise children. We do not teach them right from wrong. We do not instill values. We teach. We educate. We do not raise your children. Granted, there may be a very limited, remote, effect in not having the “smart” kid in your class from whom another student can learn – but how do you quantify this? Let’s be honest, we’re really talking about the label on a school (“priority”). Who cares. The schools are decimated because of society, because the family is decimated. It is not decimated because Johnny goes to Odyssey. Is the “priority” to keep kids in particular schools so that all schools meet some glorious standard established by an educrat? Or is our goal to educate every student to the best of our ability, WITH the help of the parents and community? Because if our goal is to simply play numbers games, we’re missing the point entirely. Honestly, who cares about these stupid “priority” labels. We all know it’s politics. We all know it’s money. We all know it’s power. Centralized power. We all know it’s B.S. Let kids go to the schools they want to go to. If a school is left with students who struggle, are you telling me that this brain drain is the primary factor in their struggle? I call B.S. I’ve taught in schools with struggling students who do not thrive being near excellent students. To the contrary, the struggle – they do little homework, they have no supplies, the don’t bring books to class, the are absent at a 20-30% rate…it wouldn’t matter if Albert Einstein were sitting next to them. If you’ve gone to school for 9 years and still can’t read and write, it’s likely that your parents don’t read or write either. (cue response – “why are you letting them go 9 years without reading and writing?”….good question, please run for governor, and allow me to fail students who fail my class). Until we find a way to educate parents how to parent a child in school, it’s a lost cause. We’ve been doing this for decades, with the same results – and please, don’t feed me the worn-out line about East Side Charter and its miraculous (completely fudged) test scores.

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    • Publius e decere

      John,

      You might want to rethink your career choice. Your current career (teacher) calls for a simple premise: High expectations, no excuses, and extend/enhance the school experience to get there.

      BUT —

      You seem to want to blame parents. Emotionally understandable, but entirely non-actionable. The answer is — what will the classroom DO to set high expectations, to support the student to deliver on those expectations, to triage the students who don’t make it on the first pass.

      If you need to blame parents, then you should seek another bogey man. You might be validated in blaming some parents, but to what purpose? The parents you want to blame are probably irreconcilable. They will not help you no matter how much you blame them. SO — focus on the students, respect the parents, but be clear that the parents who do not support their student’s success are not as high of a priority as the success of their students. MAKE THE STUDENTS SUCESSFUL.

      Let’s focus on improving students outcomes. Regardless of disconnected parents, regardless of adult-centric unions, regardless of litmus ideologues who insist on opt-out or whatever.

      Publius

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    • “What decimates schools is a lack of parenting. ”

      OK, so what is your solution for the kids who go to those schools? Let’s hear it; don’t get all shy now.

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    • I actually agree with Publius’s comment @11:13. There must be some kind of catch.

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    • “regardless of litmus ideologues who insist on opt-out or whatever”… Publius, Publius, Publius… you won’t ever understand, will you? Sad, pathetic man… Meanwhile, the ravaging of public education continues, and traditional districts AND charters won’t be able to survive the typhoon that is already well on its way…

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  8. John, what do you mean ‘please allow me to fail students who fail my class’?? Who is stopping you and why aren’t you turning them in? The governor? Are you a coward?
    Maybe not all of the parents are the loser assholes you portray them to be, but are just stupid and/or trusting when the teacher says little Johnny is doing just fine.

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