Category Archives: Education

School Ratings

The state has released the ratings for your local schools. What do they really mean? As usual there is no context given, but the good news it that we actually have some mechanism to begin rating our schools. The problem is that after a decade and half we have yet to come up with a meaningful system which answers one simple question. Which schools teach children better? Without knowing where the students started the year and where those same students ended, the numbers have little meaning.


Rep. John Conyers finally admitted what we already knew, that our elected officials on Capital Hill don't read those pesky pieces of paper that turn into laws and taxes and even wars because it's just too darn hard: “I love these members, they get up and say, ‘Read the bill,’” said Conyers. “What good is reading the bill if it’s a thousand pages and you don’t have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?” I say enough is enough, you people (yes, I said, "you people" and I mean it) wanted to be in Congress and the Senate, well, it's time for you to know what you're voting on. It's time that you start doing your homework instead of having lackeys and lobbyists do it for you.... That's why I'm proposing that all Representatives and Senators attend a mandatory, Study Hall from 9am to noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so they Read more

Something that Delaware Did Right

It appears that actually teaching reading works. Delaware made more progress closing the achievement gap between black and white students than any other state. This is thanks in part to Carper era reforms. Charter schools, reading specialists, and standards that included decoding all played a role in my view. It is easy to criticize what is wrong, but we also need to understand what works as we move forward. These results show that a focus on core skills leads to better results. It sounds fundamental, but was not always accepted let alone practiced.

The Problem with Education is

Gays need the right to alter the definition of marriage or else our children won't learn. That must be the case because the National Education Association is backing changing marriage. I am glad that someone is on top of the crucial issues facing our children. They found other problems as well. They solved the problem with civics education and the lack of knowledge of American history and heritage. We have been focused wrongly. We are really citizens of the world. Promoting education is a global concern after all. The fact that we are trying to tell the rest of the world how to educate children has no irony whatsoever. Test scores are overrated. (NEA Youtube Channel) Another issue holding our children back was addressed in over new business item 70 , "which had to do with whether the NEA should go on record in support of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Read more

The Scores are out

We are almost ready to dump the DSTP. It appears that we are stuck with it one more year. It is mid-summer and the scores have finally been released to the public. There is little meaning to the scores as far as the public is concerned. They do not tell what student progress was made in the school. You have to be an insider or put in yeoman's effort to get year to year stats for the same students. If a student transfers schools, did they improve? The scores come out after most parents have made the choice of where to send their children. The scores are almost useless as far as the public is concerned. The sooner we change; the better it is for all concerned. If you want to understand the real meaning of the scores such as understanding who is tackling special needs students and those in poverty, follow the link. Just as a side note, my smart, well studied children exceeded Read more

Guest Opinion: Joanne Christian on HB117

smitty-note: bumped this post up to give it a chance in the sun, rapid posting caused it to get pushed down on the page rather quickly passed an Onion not an Apple by Joanne Christian Let me applaud the 17 Representatives who "got it" in their decision to vote "NO" to HB 117. HB 117 has been presented simply as a "cost savings measure" to move school board elections to general election days. Sounds great, sounds easy, sounds right, and makes sense. Aaah but is it really that simple? If entire sections of Delaware code are dedicated to education practice and law from the Secretary of Education, to State School Board, through Superintendents, Administrators, teachers, and school boards, shouldn't that give one a clue of the major over-arching impact this presents, using this naive fix of a simple date-change? Move a wedding date, you get Bridezilla, move an election Read more

Unfunded mandate?

In spite of the fact that the  DSTP was a state mandate, at least the state paid for the actual test.  A new assessment would likely save the state money, but in spite of cutting the contribution to the local schools, the Department of Education seems to want school contributions.  The districts at least control local funding.  The Charter Schools, which already get far less from the state, would be in a tight position.  The state should pay for the testing.  The local districts have to allocate for the preparation, curriculum mapping, and training.  They already spent money mandated on the DSTP to map curriculum.  The local schools shouldn't spend money on a new test, too.  At least the good news is that the proposed testing is miles better than the DSTP, if the schools get stuck with part of the bill at least it would be worth something. As we prepare for the FY 2009-2010 statewide Read more

Comment Rescue: JC on HB117 House Passage

Friend and commenter, Joanne Christian, dropped a comment on Delaware Liberal in reference to the shocking and seemingly ignorant passage of HB117 in the house yesterday. 17 wise and well-thought-out Representatives voted no on this bad piece of Longhurst legislation. My focus being on Appoquinimink, I'd like to thank Rep Dick Cathcart for his no vote, but give loud jeers to Rep Quinn Johnson, whose yes vote is no surprise with his Appo. history. Additionally, I'd like to thank Rep Kowalko for his no vote. He doesn't overlap into Appoquinimink area, but he took the time to come here and comment in reference to the bill, so I felt the need to give him proper praise. To the other 15 representatives who voted no, thank you. Before we get to JC's comment, this bill now goes to the Senate. Senators Bruce Ennis and Bethany Hall-Long, big chunks of your district are Appoquinimink SD. As Read more

What Happen to History Education–Newspaper Ad Staff Runs Assassination Call

Assassination ads do not usually get placed in the classified ad section of newspapers especially when they are against the President. It read, "May Obama follow in the steps of Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy!" I hardly think that I need to condemn such an ad because it should be a given that I see it as reprehensible, but just in case--I condemn such sentiments in the strongest terms, and I stand by the rule of law and respecting the dignity of the people and the leaders they elect. The fact that we have sickening people out there is a given in a land of 300 million. That is not worth discussing. What is worth discussing is that none of the ad staff even got the meaning of the ad. That is why it was published. What does that say about the state of education? How can we be great if we don't know what made us great? Why do our textbooks spend more time explaining Mayan Read more

Comment Rescue: Calling Joanne Christian! Calling Joanne Christian!

Joanne...need your input! Rescued comment from David A: Art brings up a point that is not lost on voters. Most of the decisions are already made at the Department of Education. Local control is a talking point not a reality. Most of the budget is mandated down to the line. For only the second time that I was in town, I didn’t vote in the school board race. Quite frankly, I didn’t feel like any of the candidates represented me or had any proposals. If they had them, they didn’t present them to the paper or campaign. It all seem like beauty pageant stuff (except for Ms. USA no offense to CP). I didn’t even get a feel that they understood the problems. Now I was away and did not make the forum so I figured maybe someone said something there. They may have been wonderful people with answers, but they didn’t respect me enough to share them and I didn’t feel like I needed to Read more

Rescued Comment from DL on school board elections

Smitty made a great point over on DL that deserved a wider audience than one blog. He is opposing changing school board elections to November with the general elections. I agree with him. I do NOT EVER want to know or hear what political affiliation a school board candidate identifies with. If nothing else, I would less inclined to vote for a person if they felt a need to tell me their registration as a school board candidate, R/D/G/I/coo-coo bird/otherwise. I want to know what you want to do, how you can work with, and how you plan to get it done on the school board. If you can’t be independent on a school board, then excuse me, but get the EFF OUT! This isn’t your damned political springboard, it’s the students, the teachers, the parents, etc. If you want a political springboard, run for a damned row office and flout your affiliation there. this isn’t to say that if Read more

Fear Mongering And Loathing…

Fear Mongering And Loathing In Las Vegas Delaware Once upon a time, I worked for a wise candidate who told me that when budget cuts are on the horizon, an administration will threaten teachers' jobs or pay to scare and anger the masses. That way, when a teacher's 8% pay cut ends up being a 4% pay cut, the masses are relieved, the teachers end up being grateful that it was only a 4% pay cut, and the administration looks like the compassionate hero. Governor Jack Markell's new budget proposal with an 8% across the board cut in state employee's pay and a massive expansion of gambling in the state is a far cry from what we heard during the days of Candidate Jack Markell, a sure sign that at the end of this story, there will be a dearth of heroes... Candidate Markell, had a plan. It was over 70 pages long and he called it his "Blueprint for a Better Delaware" Maybe you heard about it Read more

Spring Forward Held Back

In the beginning of February, I got a newsletter from school reminding parents that the Delaware State Testing Program was coming up in March. It contained a little advice: ...please be sure that your child gets an adequate amount of rest the nights before the DSTP tests. A good breakfast is also very important. Send your child to school well-rested, well-fed, and ready to focus! Now, I understand our Secretary of Education is brand-spanking-new, but at any point is anyone at the Department of Education going to address the fact that the start of the DSTP often coincides exactly with the week we set the clocks an hour forward? Yeah, that would be the week our kids have to get up an hour earlier for school. Wouldn't it be better for the All Important Test Scores to take the time change into consideration when the DSTP is scheduled? But why listen to the advice of a parent, Read more

In Defense of Referendum

LEAD (Leadership in Educational Achievement in Delaware) committee chairman Marvin "Skip" Schoenhals made a controversial recommendation to limit referendum oversight for operating expenses. It was not a radical proposal. It did not seek to abolish, but limit the people's oversight. A limit would be set and if the limit is surpassed then a vote would be necessary. I oppose this in principle. I could tolerate a low limit of 3 percent or less to allow flexibility to deal with energy spikes or make reforms, but that does not seem to be the intent. The want to begin the process of cutting us out of the loop. I favor the right of the people to have oversight over their property taxes. More importantly, I favor the right of referendum more broadly. Referendum is an expression of the basic right of the people to alter their form of government. That right is hindered by the political class Read more

DMA Gets Bond Funding

...from Pima County, Arizona. The only place I can find this is a blurb straight from WDEL's website,  Considering they constantly update and roll-off their news on the website, here is the text, from WDEL: Delaware loses revenue from Military Academy By Carl Kanefsky The Delaware Military Academy has gotten bond funding through Pima County, Arizona, meaning $600,000 worth of new revenue will go there, instead of to the state of Delaware. The 530 student charter school sought the financing here at home, but was consistently denied [by] legislators and regulators in the county and state. The financing opens the door to lower interest rates which will allow the school to purchase their facilities which they currently lease, and pay for other educational services for students. Read more

The Problem with America is we don’t speak Spanish.

In case you missed it, I must inform you that news has broken that we don’t have an immigration problem. We have a language problem. Senator Barack Obama said yesterday that “instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English,” Americans “need to make sure your child can speak Spanish”. 83% of Americans don’t quite see it that way. Watch this video See the quote in context and let’s discuss. I am not worried about it. I am sure tomorrow the Senator will be for English as the official language if we also teach other languages in school. So we better hurry.

SJR 11 – One Year Charter Moratorium – Research Required

I am a Charter School proponent.  I am also accepting of Senator Blevins' SJR11, "Instituting a One-Year Moratorium for New Charter School Applications." Two reasons that make me wince first, then two reasons I accept it afterward.  In the name of front page space, take the jump to page two for the low down. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------  Reasons that don't excite me about this Joint Resolution... Who's Who Some of the names of sponsorship, namely one Senator DeLuca.  He often has reared his head to complicate the path of charter schools.  One specific example is the Delaware Military Academy and its pursuit of conduit funding.  The prime incident being when they had CONDUIT funding lined up by the county only to have it yanked at the last minute at the behest of Senator DeLuca.  Senator DeLuca and DMA...not Read more

Academy of Dover test scores justify faith by State Board

I am pleased to pre-release the fact that the Academy of  Dover has doubled its passing percentage of DSTP test takers. In addition a financial audit is positive.  All the previous negative findings were addressed. Some critics wanted to close the Academy of Dover during its charter renewal in spite of the fact the school was fundamentally sound.  It needed improvement not closure.   A state auditors report took some small items and blew them out of proportion.  Some money had been accidentally put in the wrong line, it was not missing.  The management firm had significant turnover of  financial people. Three different employees took care of the school's books over the course of the year.          Third grade test scores were not good.  Morale was low among staff.  Enrollment was falling. The state Board of Education, in its wisdom, decided to require changes Read more

Whatever happened to the LEAD Report?

Whatever happened to this concept?  It looks like the senate is not the only place which has a desk drawer. Governor Minner would you please dust off the Lead Report? The BCG team reviewed potential efficiency opportunities within the state’s $1.65 billion education budget, and identified opportunities with an annual value of $86-158 million once fully and successfully implemented. This potential includes $55-110 million in operating savings and $31-48 million in capital savings. The operating savings is split between savings that would be realized at the state level and savings that would be captured by individual districts and schools. (For each opportunity listed below, the corresponding estimated potential annual savings is provided in parentheses.) BCG leveraged past experience, interviews, and prior data and reports to develop an initial set of hypotheses on potential efficiency Read more

Houghton Mifflin: If To Error Is Human, To Ignore It is Bureaucratic

Children believe what their schools teach them.  I have found that to be a scary thought over the years.  We wonder why our children fall behind the world.  They are not dumb.  They work hard, we spend a lot educating them, and our teachers, as a group, are dedicated beyond just doing their job.  The teachers are still not paid well enough, but we have made great strides to ensure teacher compensation is now competitive to many other fields when adjusted for hours spent.  We are reducing class size and adding technology.  What's wrong? I think there are many things wrong, but let's start with the most basic of all tools--textbooks.  One of the nation's top text book company is Houghton Mifflin.  A recent audit in Texas (The Dallas Morning News Nov. 16, 2007)found 86,000 textbook errors in the Math series. I haven't found the history texts much better in my personal experience. The Read more

Why Wait until 2015?

UPDATE: A LINK ON Los Angeles success with Singapore Math. Those meeting the standard went from 45% to 76% in one year! I am grateful some people in this state are fighting to improve education.  They have an ambitious and thoughtful agenda.  This is not a post criticizing 2015.  To the contrary, I am glad to say that we don't need to wait for improvement.  I believe that one of the best cases for charter schools is that it doesn't take 5 years to make a change and 5 years to get rid of something that doesn't work. There are a few schools who already meet much of what is being proposed by the experts. The Academy of Dover is one. It offers more instructional time. It has more computers for the children than any district by far. It is accredited which is a rare feat for an elementary school. It is contracted with Innovative schools, which is supported by the same people who proposed Read more