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 theformer leaders with theft. According to aDelaware 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?
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 thatDelaware’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.
In 2014, the Department of Education reported on DOE’s School Profile Page 35% of our Delaware public school students are low income and another 13.9% are students with disabilities. The September 30th Enrollment number for the 2014-2015 school year reported that 134,932 students were enrolled in Delaware public schools.
The total number of students attending public school in Delaware is reported to be 134,932 with 47,226 being low income students and 18,756 students being students with disabilities.
I asked the Department of Education how many of the 18,756 students with disabilities are low income and their answer was 45% of the students with disabilities are also low income students 8,440.
Delaware provides additional funding for students with disabilities, there are three categories: Basic Special Education, Intensive Special Education, and Complex Special Education. Currently, Delaware does not fund a Basic Special Education student who is enrolled in Kindergarten through 3rd grade, go to § 1703 Unit of pupils for more details.
Preschool — 12.8
K-3 — 16.2
4-12 Regular Education — 20
4-12 Basic Special Education (Basic) — 8.4
Pre K-12 Intensive Special Education (Intensive) — 6
Pre K-12 Complex Special Education (Complex) — 2.6
January 2015, I introduced a bill, House Bill 30, which would add Basic Special Education funding for grades Kindergarten to 3rd grade. The House Education Committee released it and it was assigned to the House Appropriations Committee in March.
This bill provides State funding to kindergarten through third grade for basic special education. State funding already occurs for intensive and complex special education during these grades. Currently the basic special education funding runs from fourth through twelfth grade. This bill is an effort to promote earlier identification and assistance for basic special education needs which should then mitigate costs over the long term.
81% of our enrolled pre-k students were identified with a disability.
There are currently 5,843 students (pre-k thru 3) identified last year in special education.
In 2013-2014 67.89% of 3rd grade special education students were below standards compared to 24.34% of general education 3rd grade students.
3rd grade is an important year for reading; this is the year that students move from learning to read, decoding words using their knowledge of the alphabet – to reading to learn.
3rd grade students who lack proficiency in reading are four times more likely to become high school dropouts.
3rd grade proficiency is crucial for continued academic success.
House Bill 30 would add 136 more special education teachers to charters and district schools.
Delaware school districts every year have to apply for a class size waiver Title 14 – Chapter § 1705A (c) if their Kindergarten thru 3rd grade classrooms exceeds 22 students on the last school day in October in ELA, Math, Science and Social Studies. The local school board may vote to waive this at a public meeting before December 1st of each year. This bill would help to reduce class size in grades Kindergarten through 3rd grades.
RTI is a practice of providing high quality instruction and interventions matched to a student’s need.
Tier 1 includes all students,
Tier 2 students with insufficient progress in Tier 1 in reading.
Tier 3 students are students who have not made progress in Tier 1 or Tier 2.
I surveyed the 5 school districts with regards to their RTI numbers. A total of 23,550 RTI students including 3,346 students with a disability are either in Tier 1, 2 or 3. No additional resources are given to the districts in order to support this initiative.