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Gateway Lab School Rallies for Public Hearing!

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ReBlog: The post that shall not be named by Kavips

ReBlog from Kavips:  The Post that Shall Not Be Named:

It was with supreme dismay I returned to stumble over a riff between two local gurus of education.  No references shall be given.  All readers here have adequate resources to discover of whom I speak.
Point is: if Stalin and Churchill could work together to defeat a common enemy during the Second World War, one should expect petty misconceptions easily put aside considering the greater cause at hand.

More Here:

Did Exceptional Delaware find that some are just more equal than others?

In reviewing the decisions made by the Charter School Accountability Committee for Delaware, there is an obvious bias against Gateway Lab School.  Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security (DAPPS), with their special education population of 12.6%, had their charter renewed.

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The GLS Public Comment - the plea from parents, families, and community members

Wow! The words of parents, friends and family members tell the Gateway story.   These statements are just a small excerpt of testimony - public comment - available for reading on the  DOE website,, where approximate 70 statements have been submitted in support for GLS.  The public comment period is still open, so I expect that testimony will continue to be submitted and posted.
  • I am appalled to hear that Gateway is in danger of having its charter revoked.  Please consider the standards by which you analyze data for a school in which students are unable to thrive in a mainstream learning environment. 
  • I am writing to let you know that I am disheartened to hear the news for this charter school.  It has been literally a godsend for so many children with special needs. The focus on testing in our state...and in many cases across the country has gotten extremely out of control.  The students at this school are coping with such a diverse population of special needs, that traditional testing shouldn't be a measure for charter renewal. This school has been an answer to many parents prayers...a place that their children can go to receive services that they need to learn, and to successfully get through the day. Success shows itself in many ways.
  • It is my opinion that putting standardized test scores above the needs of children with learning disabilities amounts to nothing less than DISCRIMINATION against children that desperately need the environment that Gateway provides. 
  • This school is the only school in DE that caters to children who cannot thrive and perform well in a traditional school setting... To take my child out of his setting, in which she is excelling to put her back into the system where she was struggling is a grave mistake and disservice to not only my child, but all of the children of Gateway. 
  •  You do not realize what it is like to see someone who struggled throughout his young life, socially and at school, gain confidence and gain a certain level of success.
  • The Gateway Lab has helped so many students by giving them the necessary foundation to complete their educational goals over a long term period...The Gateway School builds confidence in so many. It gives them a sense of belonging to a group just like themselves.
  • As a grandparent of an eleven year old child who has multiple learning disablilities, I cannot understand how this decision was made.  After spending three years in the pubic school system,and not thriving, our grandson went to a private school that could not meet his needs. Once the Gateway Lab School had been established for two years my daughter decided to send him there. Not only was he provided with quality teachers and aides, he also qualified for a 1 on 1 aide, who helped him stay on track every day/ At an IEP meeting, my daughter was told that there was significant improvement in his scores. I do not see how the panel, or the State, for that matter, can use test scores as the only means of progress for children such as my grandson.
  • I feel that if gateway is closed,students like my son will have no other option but to move out of state to receive public education that accommodates their needs. 
  •  My autistic son attends Gateway and LOVES school again. Finally!!! He improved in the Delaware Autism Program, but that caused him to be dropped from services here are precious few places for these kids. He rarely passes the state test and that has always been true. All you are going to do is move him to school with kids who can pass the test thereby masking his poor performance. Good news for DOE, but that leaves my son exactly where he currently is educationally, but where he is miserable, lost in a sea of kids that live in a different world from him. His autism will prevent him from having academic success as easily as his neuro-typical peers; closing Gateway won't change that. What it *WILL* do is rob him of his day-to-day happiness, his ability to takepride in his accomplishments as compared with his differently-abled peers, and friendships that are hard for him to form. 
  •  Gateway has been a warm and encouraging environment for kids who have not and cannot thrive in standard schools. The smaller classes are just right.. The point of the school is not to produce academic stars but to enable kids who fall below standard to still be valued and given hope and skills to reach self-sustaining competences. Delaware benefits as happy learners grow up to be responsible and productive citizens.
  •  This is ridiculous - closing a great resource like this where special challenged kids can focus on improving in a supportive environment without the social pressures of being 'wierd' in the eyes of other children
There are so many more.  But, don't take my word for it.  Go read them!
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Let's Hold a Referendum on High Stakes Testing Via Gateway Public Record

Those who read me know that I seldom invoke my children, my family, my employer (whoever that may be at any given time) and my children's school when I blog.  Today, I am breaking all my own rules and creating a few new ones.  I will write about the things I don't write about and I will censor any negative, mean, or slanderous/libelous comment that gets left behind.

I have been many things in my life. There is the obvious - my four years as a publicly-elected school board member - for which you all know me and the reason why this blog exists.

And then there are the other roles
1. A graduate of Partners in Policymaking
2. An education advocate for children with disabilities
3. A recent winner of the Charter Networks Idea Awards (for starting a really cool nutrition program from scratch and working to take it fully scratch) (yes, anti-charter friends, you may laugh while my pro-charter-wth-a-cause friends, you may smirk.
4. My degree in English/Journalism - a dying art
5. A lunch lady - as the my Pencader detractors would love to point out with a snicker
6. A recipient of the Lindt Unsung Heros of Autism Award - Nationally recognized.
7. A one-time commentator on Campbell Brown of CNN - back when people knew C.B actually was.
8. A recent face on WDEL - a station everyone in Delaware knows.
9. A wife for 15 years while a daughter for 30-something.  Ask my kids, they remember my age better than I do.
10.  I am a closed head injury survivor who struggles daily without narcotics to overcome indescribable pain in order to be the best mother, spouse, and employee that I can.
11. I have been D's mother for 13 years, while simultaneously, H's for eight.
12. I am a Gateway employee (less than one year).
13. And in my most important role today, I am a Gateway Parent.

Last week, while sidelined with yet another bout of Bronchitis, I heard the devastating news - The Charter School Accountability Committee had voted to recommend non-renewal for our charter.  Their decision was based in solely on our academics as described by the charter framework.  In our case, we passed the other two-thirds, organizational and financial.  However, CSAC believes that the academic framework outweights the other two combined.  Does it? Who knows? We are talking about the Academic and Testing Branches of DOE, a groupthinktank that hides in the dark.

So, let's move the conversation into the sun - GLS failed the academic portion of the framework.  By conversion, as if it could ever happen, a whole lot of our traditional public schools fail the test as well.  Most will never be placed on the chopping block. But, GLS was something different, it is a charter - an experiment - something I've often said about charter schools.  I am a parent who knowingly put my children into an experiment rather than keep my children in failing districts.  I did so as a believer in two kinds of education - traditional and charter-with-a-cause - and as a reasonable person who knows "the test" - whichever one of the three different tests in five years - is bunk.

For my daughter, my decision to try a new charter school was driven by need - she needed curriculum delivered in a sensory friendly way that would inspire her love of learning again.  She stopped thriving in the lecture-based inclusion classroom.  I could tell you how she was lonely, friendless, socially delayed, and how her team refused to work with us to address those critical elements.  But, in the end, it was the need for a new environment and delivery model that inspired our choice to be inaugural Gateway parents.

For my son, it was frustration over people.  He is twice exceptional.  He has a huge IQ that swallows us whole and an amazing vocabulary that puts his peers to shame. No, I'm not gloating. The problem was that his vocabulary was masking his social skill deficits and his perception of the world around him. I just didn't know it.  What I did know was that between preschool and 1st grade he had broken his dominant arm in three places during two different episodes and that he complained and cried about how handwriting was painful.  For my part, I thought his writing was difficult to read.  The first time I requested OT eval with a drs note, I was denied by the IEP crew at his traditional public school.  Hand-in-hand my son developed school refusal - a nightmare sub-dx of separation anxiety.  In addition to the tears about his hand, we had to fight daily to bring our child into school and to leave him there.  It took 9 weeks of begging the school for help and the intervention of District-level admin to finally inspire our principal to take his condition seriously.  That principal would go on to be an asset to us, working diligently to help our son adjust in a world where he felt seriously out-of-place.  Unfortunately, when he returned for second grade, she did not. And, no, we didn't have any issues with his new principal.  She tried hard to help us.  But, the help that could be offered wasn't enough.

In his second grade year, I again asked for an OT eval.  The school complied but first insisted on every other cursory testing under the sun before we got to OT.  If the IEP process could be called a contest, he won a consult once or twice a month.  When I look at the testing and read the results, I am floored as it points to Non-Verbal Learning Disorder.  But, the team wouldn't give him that diagnosis - he got developmentally delayed.  Okay, we said, we'd take it.  Whatever label got him services. By this point, my son had become close friends with a number of school psychologists over the years, and we had even paid for therapy by a private psych who came into the school to work with him.  So, we quietly celebrated what we had.

Was his IEP adherred to?  Probably.  Remember, it was people who would drive my decision to put my son into an experiment. By the time we received his IEP, we were tired of fighting over our twice gifted child.  Because he scored so well, his academics made him low man on the totem pole in the classroom. I often felt that his teacher resented when I asked her to give him some extra assistance or to help him with his social skills.  And then, half way through second grade, she just stopped responding to me.

Could this same series of events happen in another school? Yes.  But, I already had his new school picked out.  He would join his sister at Gateway, where we had seen tremendous success in both her academics, social, and medical life. For the first time ever, my special needs daughter would attend the same school as her brother - they would have a shared experience, a bond built through education.

And in the three months my son has spent at Gateway, his school phobia is almost eradicated!  No more fights or tears.  He's opened up to learning and has made friends. He loves everything about school - except gym.  

An experiment? Yes. The right decision? Absolutely. 

You see, it doesn't matter where my children take the test that DOE requires.  The setting, the school, the state... My children will test the same.  All DSTP and DCAS ever told us about my daughter was that her severe disability interferes with her ability to take standardized tests, accommodations or not.  Meanwhile, my son recently took an ELA assessment that scored him at college-ready.  Really?  He's eight.  I'm not about to enroll him in college. It was, afterall, a standardized test.

So, here's my plea - Whether you support public charters or traditional public schools, please take up Gateway's cause.  It's time to cross the charter/traditional divide and unite to take on high stakes testing.  These types of tests don't help schools or students, as we can all see - it hurts them. 

Yes, high stakes testing hurts kids.  From Partnership Zone to Priority to Charter Frameworks and everything in between - these tests are disrupting our children's academic life and causing undue hardship to students and their families.  Because of the tests, we are constantly destabilizing schools, communities, and families.

There has to be a better way.  So, please, submit a comment to the public record!  You can do it here: or by emailing

You may choose to advocate for Gateway or you may choose to use the above forum to tell DOE how you feel about the effects of high stakes testing.  Be part of the public record!  Help us Help Kids!

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Gateway Lab School - We are not REACH, MOYER, PENCADER. etc.
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Markell to Delawareans: Welcome to the Reform District

Gov. Jack Markell on an Education Jaunt to the New Orleans Reform District

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Markell Carves Out his Legacy on Student Backs!

Some people seem to think that I should have an opinion - one way or the other - of the state's takeover attempt of the 6 Wilmington schools recently named "Priority."  But, it's not opinions that count right now.  What we, the Tax-Paying class, are witnessing in the actions of the Governing Class was written into state law long ago - specifically four long years ago - by our legislature behooved by the guidance of former Sec. of Education and Markell lap puppy, Lillian Lowery. Gone is the promised inflatable hammer of Lillian sidekick Dan Cruz.  Replaced by a gym-show-throwing Coach who's not above the same bullying behavior of the accused Tamika Louis (Del State BBall Coach.)

Opinions, bah.

Go Read the Playbook written in New Orleans Reform District!  That's where this story is going.

Remember when, in the beginning of RTTT,  we first learned about Mass Insight?  That economically well-connected think tank was singing the praises of School Turnaround in Chicago.  Before the year was out, thought, the first data considered "longitudinal" and "long-term" had started to creep out and by year end, Chicago was quietly branded a FAILURE.

Yes, Chicago was out.  And New Orleans was in.  But, it wasn't all roses as the Deformers would have you believe:

"Rather than following the common paradigm for school takeovers nationally – that is, taking over entire school districts with all their dysfunctions, central office bureaucracy, employees, and restrictive collective bargaining agreements, the Recovery School District takes over only individual schools, their employees, their students and their funding."
This lovely quote first graced C&E1st on December 29, 2009.   Echo familiar today?  Reality:  The source document is gone, probably squirreled away the day after this post first went to print.  Although an enterprising young reporter or blogger with far more time than I may choose to do a search for it...

Is there anything I really have to add to the reform discussion?  Sadly, no.  I've said it all before.  But, the ears weren't listening in 2009.  And they are still not.

Here's the original post:

A little research and maybe it's not all roses in Louisiana:  (If it's big and in bold text, it's my comment. If it's red, it's a link.)

In 2003, the Louisiana passed legislation creating a Recovery School District, administered by the Louisiana Department of Education.  The RSD is designed to take underperforming schools and transform them into successful places for children to learn.  After the hurricanes of 2005, the majority of schools in New Orleans were turned over to the RSD. 

"Rather than following the common paradigm for school takeovers nationally – that is, taking over entire school districts with all their dysfunctions, central office bureaucracy, employees, and restrictive collective bargaining agreements, the Recovery School District takes over only individual schools, their employees, their students and their funding."

The RSD employs a number of strategies to turn around struggling schools, and a key strategy is charter schools. The District is supporting both charter conversions for struggling schools and charter conversions for schools that are improving.  To learn about the The RSD Strategy, click here.

How does the LA state intervention work?
Schools that fail to meet state minimum academic standards for at least four consecutive years are eligible for state intervention. These schools can be placed into the RSD or retained by the local school board under the terms of a supervisory Memorandum of Understanding and related School Recovery Plan.

What is a Memorandum of Understanding?

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is a binding agreement between a local school district and the Louisiana Department of Education (LDE) that outlines necessary actions that must be implemented at a failing school in order for it to avoid placement in the Recovery School District (RSD). If the district fails to comply with the terms of the MOU or fails to make progress toward the implementation of the school recovery plan during the first year of the agreement, the Department may exercise the option of placing the school in the RSD. The degree of oversight involved in each school’s MOU will vary and will be based on the level of intervention Department officials deem necessary for the school to succeed.

The 2009 School Performance Scores (SPS) report released October 13, 2009 by the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE shows the Recovery School District is improving school performance in New Orleans schools.

Prior to being transferred to the RSD, most schools were labeled Academically Unacceptable for at least four consecutive years, meaning they failed to meet the minimum score of a 60 SPS. Of the 60 RSD schools that received scores in the LDOE report, 26 have raised their scores to a 60 or higher. Additionally, the District Performance Score (DPS) improved from 51.4 to 54.0 from 2008 to 2009.

The strong performance of RSD charter schools is particularly noteworthy. Three-quarters of the District’s charter schools received scores above 60, giving them a rating of one-star or above.  Cick here for Accountability information.

Sounds a lot like Race to the Top???  Maybe that's why I keep seeing the RSD referenced in my RTTT Research.  Yet, RSD is not Immune to the challenges facing education today.  Check out the flip side:

  • The Recovery School District responds to allegations made by the  Times-Picayune about their Alternative Programs at Schwarz Academy
  • The Recovery School District looks to make charters pay rent.  The Recovery School District and the Orleans Parish School Board, the two major overseers of charters in New Orleans, have historically provided their charters rent-free building space.  But, in certain cases, it's been unclear whether the district or the charter school bears responsibility for maintenance or repairs on the buildings. Such issues have typically been resolved on a case-by-case basis.  "What we are doing now is not sustainable," said Ramsey Green, the district's director of operations, who said nearly half of his staff's time goes to handling the charter requests...  More Here:
  • Recovery School District lays off dozens of teachers (August) -- Many replaced by Teach for America.
  • Recovery School District to close four schools.  "The changes reflect a mix of broad goals. The cash-strapped district, which has spent heavily under Superintendent Paul Vallas, is struggling to balance its 2009-10 budget as it braces for the loss of millions in one-time federal dollars next school year. At the same time, the state-run system is moving forward with plans to convert most of its schools to charters, representing one of the nation's largest public school privatization efforts.
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Palette Cleansor!

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Christina School Board Throws off the DSBA Yoke, Passes Deficit Budget, Fails SIG Grant, and Can't Buy Supplies

Amidst all the education crazy this week  - CSD's BOE failed to pass a motion to join the Delaware School Board Association.  A first in a million years of George Evans's.  At a savings of approx. $22 thousand.

And what was that budget snaffu:  Oh yeah, the CSD BOE voted 5-1-0 (Minnehan voted no while Saffer was absent) to pass a $14 million deficit preliminary budget.  Nice.  $14 mil = how many teachers?

Projected Receipts:  $222.434,406
Projected Expenditures: $236.985,624

Projected Deficit: $14,551,218.00

Yep, that's a deficit! 

July tidbit: It seems that DOVER failed to approve the CSD Consolidated Grant.  It was submitted in July 2014.  So, what's happening with all those school-based POs? Nothing.  Common Core Curriculum?  Nope.  Workbooks?  Nada.  Instructional Supplies?  No Way.  

July was a busy month - the CSD BOE voted to turn Douglas into a high school and over to a EMO???  Wonder how far $20.00 / teacher goes over there?

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Markell in the Basement with a Benner!

In April, we ran the post below:  The Game of Clue - Politics in Delaware Version.  It's been a couple months, but we finally know who made it out alive and who didn't:

Who was Mr. Boddy?  Chip Flowers, of course.  

The Who and How? Markell in the basement with a Benner.
Who'd a thunk it?

Next time you're invited to Woodburn for a dinner party, pull a Jennings and decline!


I'll take Jennings in Woodburn's cellar operating suite with a syringe of glove cleaner... 

The Game - Clue, The Delaware Way Version
In 1944, Englishman Anthony Pratt filed a patent on a murder/mystery game he had invented to pass the time during air raid drills in underground bunkers  Though it was quickly acquired by Waddington's, the game was not launched until 1949 when it was simultaneously released in the U.S. by Parker Brothers.  Notably, the version that reached publication included 324 possible combinations of room/weapon/offender. 

The Setting - Woodburn, the Governor's Mansion where a select few have been brought together to hash out Delaware's political future over a dinner of stewed poultry and rare local cheeses courtesy Roos Foods.  Desserts to be supplied by Serpe's Bakery. 

It should be noted that Woodburn's residents share their home with several benevolent spirits and one particularly evil manifestation - the ghost of a southern slave raider who died while hiding in a poplar tree that still graces Woodburn today.

The Rooms -

The Weapons -  A Candelstick, Knife, Revolver, Syringe, Wrench, and Lead Pipe. 

The Players -

Current AG. Beau Biden, a man with a mysterious medical
Mysterious Illness? Maybe...
condition whose silence has sparked the ire of the local newspaper and a handful of Republicans.  As the son of the current Vice President of the United States, he has recently announced that he will not seek another another term as State Attorney General.   He's eying Governorship and has made the critical decision not to use an elected position as a springboard for his gubernatorial aspirations. Despite the unexplained lesions in his brain, he continues to be revered as Delaware's Golden Boy.

Lt. Gov. Matt Denn, rode the coattails of "change agent" Jack Markell into an office view of The Green. The two-term shadow
Out of the Shadows, Education Advocate
of the Del Dem Markell, he had already mounted a quiet campaign for Governor in 2016, the heir apparent to the term-limit-bound Markell..  The surprising announcement that our Golden Boy is not seeking another four years as A.G. has derailed Denn's presumed candidacy.  Potentially fearing another debilitating primary, the Democratic Party breathed a little easier Monday morning when Denn announced he would not seek the Governorship after all.  He has filed for the Attorney General's race instead.

Gov. Turned Kids into Rats
When Governor Jack Markell campaigned for "change" seven years ago, his successful primary split the Democratic Party wide open and has nursed a rift that continues through this day.  He has strayed from his public platform and sold much of the state to the rascals that control the Star Chamber of Commerce and out-of-state investors.  Under Markell's reign, the Great Recession has taken hold in Delaware and the middle class has been decimated.   Though no one group has offered a vote of no confidence in this politician, it is widely hoped that the outgoing governor will receive his due political appointment in Washington D.C. essentially sending him packing.

Respectable Attorney
Kathleen Jennings, a prosecutorial star and a Biden insider, knew that Beau was withdrawing from the AG's race before the public did.  Known both for her masterful prosecution of a former Delaware serial killer, and her swinging door at the AG's office (she's an on-again/off-again state employee when not in private practice) rumors are on  the upswing that she'll rival Denn in a primary for the AG seat.

Flowers in Alaska

Chip Flowers, a political dote who has crafted a hate-love/love-hate relationship with his electorate, is eying what?  Well, it's hard to say with Chip.  He crafted his political status as a commentator on PBS, back when PBS had a mild interest in Delaware and gained enough name recognition to find himself elected as State Treasurer - a position once held by Gov. Markell.   However, Chip's time in office has been bizarre. We've seen the powers of the office restricted since Flowers planted his roots.  Which is hard to do - root-planting - when one spends as much time traveling out-of-state as he does.

I'm You!
Christine-I-AM-NOT-A-Witch O'Donnell, more affectionately known to Delawareans as COD, deserves to join the Clue Murder/Mystery Party for no other reason than her notoriety as the tea-party celebrate who single-handedly took down Delaware's Republican Party, ensuring that the state's only previously held Republican seat among our D.C. delegation, represented for nine terms by  Mike Castle, went to Democrat Chris Coons.  She's no golden girl, but the Dems owe COD a wealth of gratitude. And with unpredictability her modus operandi, it's a given that COD will somehow wiggle her way into the political fray come campaign season. 

With Countless Possibilities, Who killed Mr. Boddy? Will Boddy be the only victim?  Who will survive dinner with Jack?  Who will make it out alive? And who will leave without a raging case of listeria?  

Yep, I call Jennings in the cellar with a syringe.  

Now, it's your turn to play.

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