April 15, 2013
The News Journal
Slashed spending strains districts
Gov. Jack Markell embraces his reputation as an education governor and proudly promotes his work to protect school funding even as a lingering recession has strained state resources. But that image contrasts sharply at the ground level of Delaware’s public education system, where local school districts continue to struggle four years after the Markell administration enacted sweeping cuts to education programs that have not been restored. Local districts unable to pick up the tab have been forced to cut their own spending, drain rainy-day funds or increase local property taxes. A smaller state share of education money, coming as Markell has championed increased federal funding for special Race to the Top programs, has been felt far and wide in local districts, an analysis of school budgets by The News Journal shows. Some districts have reduced school security staff as state and national leaders are calling for increased school safety. Summer school programs in others have been cut and technology upgrades delayed.
Letter to the Editor
Debbie Doordan, Executive Director, Innovative Schools
College ready vs. innovation ready
The New York Times published an article on March 30 highlighting Tony Wagner’s assertion that in a rapidly changing economy where there is increasingly no such thing as a high-wage, middle-skilled job, our goal should not be to make every child “college ready” but rather to make them “innovation ready.” He believes we can get there by re-imaging schools for the 21st century by bringing play, passion and purpose into the classroom. This national push for rethinking public schools is taking hold in Delaware. Today, eight schools, known as the Alliance of Model Schools, are replicating deeper learning school designs that prepare students who are innovation ready. Using project-based learning and other unique structures, these schools are pushing students to solve problems by using skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration on a daily basis. Innovative Schools is proud to support the Alliance.
DE Dept. of Education
Educators ‘TELL Delaware’ their workplace strengths, needs
The majority of teachers feel their schools are a good place to work and learn, feel trusted and recognized for their expertise, have the time they need to collaborate with peers and believe their school environments are safe, according to the more than 6,000 Delaware educators who responded to the TELL (Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning) Delaware survey. But the survey also revealed that more work is needed to improve teacher leadership opportunities, differentiate professional development to individual educator needs, reduce the amount of routine paperwork and improve educator induction and mentoring across the state.
The Cape Gazette
Cape board members question choice policy
Some Cape Henlopen school board members say too many students may be choiring into Shields Elementary School in Lewes, inflating already high student enrollment at the school. “My perception of Shields is it’s packed,” said board member Jen Burton. Burton requested the special meeting held April 9 to address Cape’s school choice policy after voting no March 28 to accept school choice applications. The board took a public vote on the matter following an executive session in which about 20 specific choice requests were discussed, one school board member said. Board member Sandi Minard joined Burton in voting against all the school choice applications, but the applications were accepted because the remaining school board members voted to approve them.
Lt. Gov. Denn honors schools emphasizing parental engagement
Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn is honoring two schools in Delaware for getting parents more directly involved in their kids’ education. Allen Frear Elementary School in Camden-Wyoming and Laurel High School are both receiving the “Excellence in Parental Involvement Award.” Denn established the award four years ago to recognize achievements in bridging the gap between home life and the classroom. “When I go to schools it’s the number one thing that teachers mention to me in terms of where they think we need to be doing better,” said Denn. “For them the interaction with parents in terms of reinforcing at home the work that’s going on in the classroom, being able to talk to parents about the needs of their children is just an area where we need to constantly need to do better.”
Delaware charter school troubles: Pencader parents, students dealt another blow
First Pencader Charter High School lost its charter; now, less than two months later, Pencader parents received more bad news. In a letter sent home to parents this week, the president of the school’s board of directors warns parents the school might have to declare bankruptcy or end the school year early on April 30 because there’s not enough money to cover teachers’ salaries. According to the letter, dated April 9, Pencader teachers work 10 months out of the year, but have their salaries spread out over 12 months. Frank McIntosh writes the school is struggling to cover those last two deferred payments. “Under normal circumstances, we would have received an allocation from the state on July 1 and could have used this money, in part, to pay the teachers’ salaries… Because our school was closed by the Dept. of Education, we will not be receiving this allocation and thus do not have the funds to pay the teachers.” Because Delaware’s DOE signed off on the charter school’s budget, understanding there would be a discrepancy if the school was closed, McIntosh feels the expenses fall in DOE’s court.
Florida State Impact
State website measures whether Florida schools are ready for new standards and testing
At an upcoming meeting, the Florida state board will discuss the technology needed to implement the new online Common Core assessments. The main concern is whether the proper equipment will be in place for testing in all districts. The state education department has come up with a readiness gauge to measure each district’s progress toward meeting Common Core and digital learning deadlines.
The Washington Post
Bush, Obama focus on standardized testing leads to ‘opt-out’ parents’ movement
A decade into the school accountability movement, pockets of resistance to standardized testing are sprouting up around the country, with parents and students opting out of the high-stakes tests used to evaluate schools and teachers. From Seattle, where 600 high school students refused to take a standardized test in January, to Texas, where 86 percent of school districts say the tests are “strangling our public schools,” anti-testing groups argue that bubble exams have proliferated beyond reason, delivering more angst than benefits. “Over the last couple of years, they’ve turned this one test into the all and everything,” said Cindy Hamilton, a 50-year-old mother of three in Florida who founded Opt Out Orlando in response to the annual Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, which starts again Monday. Her group is one of dozens of new organizations opposed to such testing.
Some states dropping GED as test price spikes
Several dozen states are looking for an alternative to the GED high school equivalency test because of concerns that a new version coming out next year is more costly and will no longer be offered in a pencil and paper format. The responsibility for issuing high school equivalency certificates or diplomas rests with states, and they’ve relied on the General Education Development exam since soon after the test was created to help returning World War II veterans. But now 40 states and the District of Columbia are participating in a working group that’s considering what’s available besides the GED, and two test makers are hawking new exams.
The New York Times
Students face tougher tests that outpace lesson plans
New York public school students and parents are, by now, accustomed to standardized tests. But a pall has settled over classrooms across the state because this year’s tests, which begin Tuesday, are unlike any exams the students have seen. They have been redesigned and are tougher. And they are likely to cover at least some material that has yet to make its way into the curriculum. The new tests, given to third through eighth graders, are intended to align with Common Core standards, a set of unified academic guidelines adopted by almost every state and goaded by grant money offered by the Obama administration. They set more rigorous classroom goals for American students, with a focus on critical thinking skills, abstract reasoning in math and reading comprehension.