1 to 5 Star Ratings Are Being Pushed by Some Members of the State’s ESSA Advisory Committee

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I was a member of the ESSA Advisory Committee and our last ESSA meeting was last week. I read the entire updated draft ESSA Plan, 90 + pages, and there are a few things that are very troubling – one being the state would like to move forward with the continued labeling of our public schools with a 1 to 5 star rating – similar to a hotel rating. There were members of the ESSA Advisory Committee who support the 1 to 5 star rating but there were members who opposed it. 

There are schools in Delaware that are allowed to select their students based on grades, attendance, behavior, a test, an interview, or a state assessment. There are schools in Delaware that have low percentages of ELL, Spec Ed and Low Income students compared to other schools in our state. How can we compare our schools when some schools can admit students based on academics? How can we compare schools when certain public schools are “Counseling out” students with disabilities  – other schools enrollment practices limits access to certain student populations? How can we compare schools when certain schools can say to a family this school is not the right fit for your child? How can we compare schools when some schools are testing in March compared to those schools that test in April or May? Our bigger schools will have to test earlier so they can test all the students to meet the 95% participation rate so they are not penalized and the smaller schools can afford more classroom time because the size of their school.

Recently, I wrote to the Department of Education, asking why Family Foundation Charter School was approved for a name change. DOE’s response was: Family Foundations Academy stated its rational for the name change was, “There have been many changes in the last two years for Family Foundations.  These changes have included new leadership, new curriculum and a new focus for our future.  With all of these changes we have been focusing on the impact we wish to have in New Castle County as well as the city of New Castle. We are deeply committed to seeing the children of New Castle actualize into adults that make a deep and positive impact on our future.   We want our name to reflect our focus on our community.

Family Foundations Charter School has had plenty of bad press during the last few years. Two of their former leaders were accused of misspending school funds and Federal prosecutors have charged one of the former leaders with theft. According to a Delaware Online article from January 2015, one leader made $73,956.02 in purchases with the cards, while the other leader spent a total of $20,673.85. I have provided a link to the Delaware Auditor’s Office audit on Family Foundation.  The Department of Education and the State Board of Education supported Family Foundations name change but is pushing for the 1 to 5 Star rating – so there is a different set of standards in place when it comes to some of our public schools. The state approved two/three name changes for Moyer Academy Charter School which eventually closed. Changing the name of a charter school attempts to conceal the issues, which in the end hurts the students and community. These schools should to keep their names so we can make sure they are actually improving and that they are transparent. How can our State Board of Education hold some of our public schools to a higher standard than others?  

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4 thoughts on “1 to 5 Star Ratings Are Being Pushed by Some Members of the State’s ESSA Advisory Committee

  1. Eve Buckley

    Important points, Kim. When parents see schools with one or two out of five stars, they do not understand that this may simply mean the school is serving high-needs children. They assume that this indicates low-quality teaching, and they try to send their own children elsewhere. So this kind of rating system contributes to isolating our highest-needs students in segregated schools, b/c it disincentivizes parents with choices [not all families enjoy the same choices in our public system!] from sending their own kids to school with those less-advantaged kids. That is poor policy for a number of reasons. Segregated schools of high-needs kids rarely do well, esp. in a state like DE in which additional funds are NOT provided to meet the legitimate additional service needs of low-income, English-Language learning and some “basic” spec ed students. The more we concentrate children in those categories together, the less well we serve them.

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  2. John Thompson

    There should be concern whenever an official entity rates a school. There are a great number of online sites, by the way, that rate schools already. Parents are more than able to find this information at their will. And when they do, there should be a level of skepticism, because, after all, these websites don’t really know what’s going on in these schools. They haven’t visited them. And quite frankly, they are for-profit websites that pull in advertisement revenue with every click on their site. But when a state/official entity rates a school in a similar 1-5 star manner, it’s even more troubling. At least the consumer knows what they are getting when they go to a commercial website for information. When he/she visits a state site, he/she makes the assumption that these ratings are accurate. They have the air of “official” to them, because they are on a state web server. But those conducting the ratings haven’t visited the schools. They haven’t been in the classrooms, to the hallways, to the school concerts, to the athletic events, to the cafeteria, to the bus-stops – they haven’t experienced what goes on in every school, not even remotely. They will have looked at test scores, primarily, to determine the rating of these schools. As we’ve seen again and again and again, standardized test scores follow, nearly perfectly inversely, a pattern. As the level of poverty increases in a school, its test scores inversely drop. And as the level of poverty decreases, its test scores rise. There was a great chart floating around the internet two years ago that showed RCCSD’s elementary schools’ test scores vs. %poverty. Perfectly inversely related. Causation? Correlation? You be the judge. But the data is what it is. So that said, why not just cut to the chase and rate our highest poverty schools 1-star schools, and our lowest poverty schools 5-star schools. Eliminate the testing, and save a few weeks of instruction time.

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  3. Connie Merlet

    This is not dissimilar to the Star ratings for daycares. The original 5 Star daycares were those which had already attained NAEYC accreditation- which is very expensive. So only wealthy, usually corporate, centers were able to get that accreditation. The state has pushed hard for centers to join the Stars program, and advertises the Stars ratings on several websites. Centers which do not join the program are maligned. However, if one delves deeper into the quality of the various centers, both those which do not belong at all and those which have “attained” 5 Stars, one will find that real quality has little to do with the system the state has created. But the state has spent many millions rewarding the higher Star programs.
    Now they want to make this failed and unfair system explicit for public schools.
    Delaware has been denigrating schools which take “ordinary” students for years now. Let’s hope that our new governor will take a hard look at education in our state and begin to realize the damage that has been done in the name of “all means all”, which as we know really means “just my child and to heck with the rest.”

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