Tag Archives: ELL

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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Education Funding Improvement Commission Meeting #4 –Must Read!

Yesterday, I attended the Education Funding Improvement Commission Meeting #4. It was held in Dover at 9:00. Former State Representative Scott, who is chairing this committee, thought the timeline which was placed on the commission was very tight. The commission report is due in March. He asked the members if they were in favor of adding additional time so the committee could continue to meet –the committee members present all agreed. One member of the commission, did express that the time of day that they hold these meetings are not convenient for parents and educators. She requested that they hold the next meeting at night.

I am not sure where the commission is heading. There is a great divide with its members. One group of members want to throw out the unit count system completely and the other group of members want to keep the unit count and modify it.

The meetings that I have attended have been more about presenting information then actual discussion. I am not against presentations, it is important to educate members on the issues. My concern is everyone in the room already knows where they stand on the issue. They really need to open up the discussion and figure out which direction are they going to take –removing the unit count completely or keeping it and add weighted funding to it. Once the members decide on this, I believe the members will be able to recommend what needs to be done.

The first presentation was given by Rep. Bambauch and David Blowman. Rep. Bambauch had been working with the Department of Education on this issue for the last year. The Department of Education hired a consultant they had been working with to do the research. The group that prepared the report was Hanover Research. This group only provided data and no recommendations –I had a hard time dissecting the report.

Rep. Bambauch and David Blowman presented a traditional weighted funding model –both of them believe the unit count system needs to be removed and replaced with a weighted formula. Rep. Bambauch commented that the funding system is broken and that funding needs to be fairly distributed throughout the state. Each school would receive a budget and the school principals would have a salary cap (hiring teachers/staff) in place at their schools. He does not believe teachers will be against this. He believes the most important thing teachers want are the necessary resources in place at their schools.

The next presentation was Dr. Marguerite Roza, from Georgetown University, she presented an equitable funding model.  She focused on four reasons to change the formula:  provide equity for students, delivery models are changing and the formula must not stand in the way, simple and transparent, and be outcome focused. Her recommendations were to allocate funds per pupil, ensure funds are flexible, restructure equalization, and build a transparent system.

The next step, in my opinion, should be a vote to see where the members are with the direction of this committee. I am getting the impression there is an agenda in place that not all members of the committee have seen. There seems to be a push for removing the unit count completely and replacing it with one of the models that have been presented over the last few meetings. A letter was drafted by some committee members expressing their concerns about the direction of the committee.

I did make a public comment at the end of the meeting. I suggested that they have more dialogue among the committee members instead of presentations. If they could make sure the Education Funding Improvement Commission website has the meeting dates listed. On their website for yesterday’s meeting it listed the February meeting was “To Be Determined”.  I expressed support for the unit count system but adding weighted student funding for ELL, poverty and basic special education kindergarten through 3rd grades.

Below, is a link to information and presentations associated with this commission. The next meeting will be held sometime in March.

Education Funding Improvement Commission website.

 

 

 

Dual Certified Spec Ed Teachers, Good Thing or Not?

I am extremely concerned with the direction our districts are going with respects to dual certified special education teachers. We have elementary schools which are serving ELL, Spec Ed and general education students and many of these students are also low income students. What seems to be the norm, correct me if I am wrong, if you are a dual certified special education teacher you have additional responsibilities than a teacher who is not dual certified. I am not saying that general education teachers who are not dual certified are not working as hard as a dual certified teacher; what I am saying is dual cert. teachers have more responsibilities that require an action with documentation such as IEP meetings, IEP paper work, implementing the IEP etc. The school districts and the State are getting two teachers in one at the same pay scale.

I was in Dover recently for the JFC meeting when JFC members were asking DOE questions about DOE salary scale. It was interesting to hear the Department of Education and their reasoning behind the salaries. They spoke about the need to be competitive in order to attract the best people. They spoke about people doing multiple jobs under one title and there was a need to pay them more.

We have teachers performing multiple jobs as well under one title and not receiving one penny more. We really need to rethink how we are educating our children here in Delaware and what is expected from our staff who are responsible for making this happen. The necessary resources that are needed in our classrooms are not there. We are demanding our teachers to do more and more with less and less. The teachers I know, want  to make a difference but cannot do that because of what is expected of them and what is lacking in their classrooms.

 

Every Student Succeeds Act is an Improvement

The House of Representatives passed a compromise bill – the Every Student Succeeds Act – by a bipartisan vote of 359-64. The Senate will vote on this next week and they will most likely pass this bill. This has been a long time coming. No Child Left Behind left us with labeling our schools, over testing our students, setting goals of obtaining 100% proficiency by certain dates and evaluating our teachers using test scores. No Child Left Behind did the opposite of what was the original intent of the bill; NCLB left many students behind. While teachers were teaching to an unrealistic test, teachers could not focus on the individual child, they lost control of their classrooms and the feds and the state dictated what teachers needed to do in order to be successful in their classrooms instead of letting teachers do what they already knew, how to teach our students!

I am happy that this bill has passed the House and we will have more local control, my question is how will our state use their new control? We already know what is needed here in Delaware and what is lacking in our classrooms; additional resources to address poverty, more resources in special education, especially kindergarten through 3rd grades, and funding for our ELL students. We know how important it is for our children to be able to read proficiency by third grade. We know how important it is for our children to have excellent early learning opportunities. I am hopeful our state will provide these things.

I read the Delaware Online article this morning about “Rare consensus in Delaware over federal education reform,” click here to read. In the article the Governor’s Office provided a statement. In the statement it states the following:

“The Every Student Succeeds Act preserves some of the most important elements of our existing system, including annual testing requirements in 3rd-8th grade and in high school, which ensure that every student counts,” the statement said. “We would have liked to see stronger requirements for timely intervention in schools where students are struggling, but overall, the Every Student Succeeds Act is an important step forward that will give states more flexibility to meet their students’ needs.”

The last sentence where the Governor’s Office noted they would have liked to have seen stronger requirements for timely intervention in schools where students are struggling. Honesty, we do not need the Feds placing requirements on us. We, as a state, can provide timely intervention by providing the necessary resources that we need -ELL funding, Basic Special Education funding for our students kindergarten through 3rd grades where the students need to be developing their reading skills to become proficient readers and finally addressing our students of poverty. This is what needs to be done. I will be listening closely to the Governor’s State of the State and I am hopeful these very important funding items will be mentioned and funded in the Governor’s proposed budget.

I am hopeful Delaware will take this opportunity to do what is needed and has been needed for many years provide the necessary resources needed to make sure all our students are successful.

 

Funding Student Success Working Group Meeting – Update

A Washington Post story reported in January the following:

  • For the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families, according to a new analysis of 2013 federal data, a statistic that has profound implications for the nation.

The article goes on to say:

  • It also means that education policy, funding decisions and classroom instruction must adapt to the needy children who arrive at school each day.

Today was the Funding Student Success Working Group meeting at Baltz Elementary School.There were 13 committee members present and 2 members of the public.

Most think that Delaware’s Unit funding system is functional but lacks the necessary funding for Spec. Ed Basic Students kindergarten through 3rd grades, funding for English Language Learners (ELL) and students of poverty. Our system is primarily based on a unit system with some weighted funding for Special Education students, Basic 4th – 12th grades, Intensive K – 12th grades and Complex K – 12th grades, see § 1703 Unit of pupils.

The committee handed out an Analysis of Funding for Poverty Units which provided 10% to 15% of additional units based on a weighted % of poverty in a Red Clay. The group discussed adding bands to the analysis. For example: if a school had 60% of low income students they would receive a higher weighted percentage than a school that had 20% of low income students. They are looking at whether to focus on grade level poverty or focus on schools that have a higher concentration of low income students.

  • They are going to put together an additional analysis for Christina School District.
  • Connect with the other WEIC sub-committees and coordinate to see what other state agencies could provide to schools with high numbers of low income students.
  • Have IPA look at best practices of weighted funding formulas for ELL and low income students.