Mark Murphy is Delaware’s Secretary of Education. The words in black below are his original argument.…  Many facts are twisted, and to get the proper balance, a first-time reader must read his words within proper context….

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When children at some of our schools are not learning, we have an obligation to act.

And yet we’ve cut state funding per students’ needs across this past administration, despite receiving a bonus of $119 million in federal money for Race To The Top…. State funding for all public school districts was cranked down. Failing students weren’t a priority then, but now that the local wealthy have a new charter toy in Wilmington, suddenly failing children are now important?  Why weren’t they important in 2013? 2012? 2011? 2010? 2009?

Three months ago, the State announced a commitment to improve educational opportunities for children in our state’s six lowest-performing schools. Our Priority Schools initiative has received heavy criticism from those who fear an overhaul of the status quo. And we have heard poverty used as an excuse for why students haven’t achieved.

The Priority Schools initiative has received valid criticism, but not for reasons specified above.  Here are We, The People’s concerns:  misplaced money. incompetence, falling behind achievement levels of what currently exists, becoming a worse educational environment, robbing resources from necessary educational needs to be given to “friends” of the DOE in higher salaries…. Plus, add the fact that some of these schools were rated by an independent  educational-expert auditor, as working very well. Primarily the proper criticism lies with the administration’s shaming of only 6 schools closest to the new charter schools which last year had a very difficult time signing up the minimum number of students interested in attending. 

But we remain committed to this effort because we know that students from even the most disadvantaged backgrounds – many of whom grow up in desperate poverty and violent neighborhoods – can overcome these circumstances and succeed “if given the opportunity”.

“If given the opportunity”.. Already mentioned above were the funding cuts.  Furthermore none of the principals in these “failing” schools have been there over the 3 year time required for this designation. One actually started the day before his school was classified “priority”. Thirdly, increased Charter School enrollment allowed entrance into these two districts, siphons money out of these 6 schools.  They also siphon off the better students.  If in a class you have 7 good students and 3 not so good, you pass with 70%.. If a charter steals 1 of your top students, and refuses to take any bad, you fail with a 66%.. Some of these classes in Wilmington have lost the equivalent of 3 of their top students to charters. So whereas education may be just as good or better than before, due to shifted numbers, one has lower scores, all because of the blooming idiot who chose to let charters into our system.  Scores have very little to do with rating schools.  They simply tell you how many of what class of students you have and that is all.. 

And we don’t have to look far to see what is possible for these children.

Look to the Indian River District where public schools have made great strides among poor Sussex Countians, many who didn’t originally speak English… (There was no pre-built mega charter school donated in a corn field.)

At Lewis Elementary in Wilmington, only 25 percent of students could read and do math at grade level in 2011. This year, that number increased to 60 percent. During the same time, Eastside Charter increased the percentage of fifth graders proficient in reading from 15 percent to 66 percent. And Booker T. Washington in Dover boosted the performance of its students – closing the gap between the number of low-income and non-low-income students who are proficient from 37 percent to eight percent in just three years.

Charter Schools control all who enter… “Got good scores? Sure come on.  Got bad scores, nope, sorry Bud, didn’t make the cut this year.” Elementary Schools are tested grades 3-5.  Which means in 2011, those in 3 grade by 2013 were in 5th. Those above were already in middle school. The new students were selected to be better students.  In 2013’s test, grade 5 would have been in 3rd, grade 4 in 2nd, and grade 3 in first. So factor out selection, and it is hard to prove that scores rose through “dynamic leadership”… (Notice none of these did it in one year, implicating the scores grew over attrition rates, not good teaching).  This would be easy to verify by tracing these schools grades from 3rd through 5th across 3 years and comparing that to the school’s posted score averaged for these schools.  This info so far has not been disclosed in FOIA requests and was earlier removed from the DOE website. 

All of these schools serve a high proportion of low-income students of color – in some cases higher than at our Priority Schools. And not long ago, their students struggled as much or more than their counterparts at the Priority Schools today.

Aye, but it was not the same students who struggled.  Students who were culled from better minority homes replaced those from what most of us would call “no real home” and those rejects got kicked back to public school.  All that happened was (under great leadership) these poor scoring student were replaced with better scoring students solely to give their schools higher scores.  Since Standard University has showed us that charters consistently under-perform public schools, sadly, these culled children lost an opportunity for real quality education because of this.

Each school’s turnaround strategy was different. Lewis became a world language immersion school. Booker T. Washington implemented an extended school day, which includes recreational and community service activities. Eastside started a rigorous support system for staff with constant feedback and evaluation.

All those are effective. But they all can work in the public system as well. And do, in many public systems if those public systems are funded adequately.  Naturally most of the successful schools occur in wealthier neighborhoods… The high-need children come from the poorest and therefore least adequately funded schools in the system.  If funding was made available at similar levels to public schools, all those programs could exist in public schools today.  The funding IS being made available to these charter schools… East Side Charter spends far more per student than does Warner,,, kind of hard to make a fair comparison when you starve one child, and bulk up another, then put both into a wrestling ring… The actual facts can be found on “tests of accountability”, where charter schools across the board do worse than do public… Always have… Always will. 

But the schools also had some things in common – most importantly, a dynamic school leader who received the authority and flexibility to implement creative programs and to rally their faculty and staff around a vision for helping their students learn.

Dynamic School leaders also predominate our public schools.  Yet they were also present in those charter schools being closed down by this DOE… “Dynamic leadership” is bunk. Another word-game that means nothing… Go ahead… Describe “dynamic leadership”… Is it screaming?  Is it yelling?  Is it saying “my way or else?” .. If so, then Pencader would be a top rated school right now.  Because that is what it had.  The words “dynamic leadership” need to go away… It implies you are asking for a movie actor; not a result driver… Based on outside experts, (people held a million times more trustworthy than any corporate puppet groomed and plucked to follow orders), dynamic leadership already exists in two of the six schools slated for being castrated, lynched and hung up for all to see as future warning. 

And now would also be a good time to put to bed the idea that having roving lunatics (disguised as leaders) running around our schools with hands up in the air, will do us good.. Someone given no oversight. Someone able to do what ever it was he wanted…Having no one looking over his shoulder,and if someone did, they were given a rubber stamp.  Wait!!!!  Tower Hill had a headmaster just like that…

Now anyone who has studied Management 101 or levels higher, knows the prime reason we have “management” is because “lack of management” does not work long-term…  We have too many people running our DOE and above, who all seem to have gotten their alleged brilliance from watching episodes of “Saved By The Bell” … 

The situation at our Priority Schools is unacceptable. In some grades, less than 30 percent of children read and do math at grade level, and much less than half reach their individual academic growth goals each year. These students begin each fall well behind their peers, and drop further behind during the year. Many of them graduate high school unable to read or perform basic math, if they graduate at all. And the situation is not improving.

First, what is completely ignored above is that these students are BORN well behind their peers and drop further behind each day, long before entering our school system. No one believes shoddy work should be venerated, worshiped and the problems passed on!  Based on test data, (again not FOIA’d for these 6 schools), these children allegedly did poorly… The proper opening of that paragraph should read more like this:  The situation in our Priority Schools is unacceptable; but miraculously in some grades, already 30% of its children can pass a test most American adults, including professionals, would fail… Something miraculous here is working right!”

This would be a good moment to refresh.  Like the recent reference to Washington State’s schools, these schools were cruising fine, spitting out some good students, some bad, like schools everywhere. However, with the advent of the mega-charter school and the lack of interest by Wilmington families unwilling to sacrifice their only children for a profiteer’s monthly margin, something had to be done to get students to go to the mega-charter or it was doomed to fail! Next year it would fail.  Hence all the hoopla over something that would have been completely ignored this fall but for filling that new school.  

Most adults cannot pass a third grade Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Most engineers cannot pass the 7th Grade Smarter Balanced Math Assessment.  It is not the math that is hard; it is a test that is written so poorly every adult gets thrown by what is being asked… Yet, WE are using this to rate schools…  And furthermore, the ELA tests come out of the knowledge-pool of Mid-Western America which is primarily stocked with German and Scandinavian ancestry…  Which is why the Mid-west and the North-east tend to do better than Southern, Western, or Urban cultures.  The tests are a “rural white litmus” test and if one grew up in that environment one has an edge on having a higher score….  But if one grew up where the dialect was based off one of accented Old English, as are many Appalachian cultures, former slave cultures, or just the old Southern plantation culture, then one always guesses the allegedly wrong (???) answer because it seems far more natural to ones ear, than the one a Midwesterner would choose.  Both are right in their own cultures, but on a standardized test… one can’t have two right answers.

And yet….. 30% of inner city Wilmington’s students were able to succeed…. Indeed, a miracle. (remember no adult you know can pass these tests) Why? Because they were taught well in our public schools… The question needs to be:  how can we get more inner city children exposed to mid-western culture? Why can’t we get an urban test? What can we work on?  What is working?  What can we do better?  

So we have asked the districts to work with us and help these schools develop new plans based on what we know works for these students.

Actually no…  Your boss pulled a press stunt, announcing they were becoming priority schools and if they did not come up with a plan, you were going to privatize them… They originally had no choice, and the only reason they were given the option to make their own plans and not use yours, is because they fought back and the ENTIRE EDUCATION STRUCTURE of students, parents, legislators, teachers, principals, and school board members of this state, were solidly behind them.  You had no choice but against your wishes, than let them pretend to develop new plans that suddenly become obsolete once the mega-charter opens.  

It starts with a school leader who has a track record of working effectively with youth in high-need schools, and who has the authority to carry out a plan that fits their individual schools’ needs, free from unnecessary restrictions and mandates. We must empower these leaders to make the changes that have worked elsewhere in Delaware and beyond – changes that some of our existing district rules prevent – like extending the school day and school year, providing after-school tutoring for struggling students, and/or offering social services in their buildings. And we must hold those leaders accountable for their schools’ results.

No, it doesn’t.. We already covered that those successful school leaders were actors who simply kicked out bad students and recruited good ones, something public schools cannot do.  The real dynamic leaders are already here, today, in Delaware’s public schools and public school boards and public superintendents. For they have shown improvement despite having a hostile boss, despite decreased funding due to a poor economy, and despite a new insane curriculum called Common Core… This current crop are true leaders… They got things done not by juggling “acceptance criteria”, but by working with whatever they chanced to have.  Now… if you were to let these people rid themselves of the Common Core curriculum, then “that type” of authority would be welcome.  Somehow I doubt that is what you have in mind?

The State has made an initial investment of $6 million to support this process and help ensure the schools have the resources they need to change course. That’s equivalent to a ten percent increase in funding per student per year, and we remain dedicated to finding every way we can help these schools succeed.

But zero of that funding goes to impact any student activity.  It goes to hire friends of the DOE to a) plan ($40,000), and b) “act” like a leader ($160,000)… Furthermore, that money causes less to become available to help students… It takes away from what already was. Schools in 2 years will have less funding overall due to charters, despite the yearly $200,000 promised…. Which is why there is so much hostility to this opaque takeover attempt; it’s a money-steal… There is nothing here to help kids; there is a lot to help those well connected to this administration.  And we haven’t even covered it’s real reason: to bust the DSEA teachers’ union by firing every teacher and rehiring only 50% back and replacing them with substitutes out of the sub-teacher pool. (I think that pool is still called Teach for America.)

We want – and expect – that just as Lewis and Booker T. Washington and Eastside have chosen different approaches to helping their students succeed, each of the Priority Schools will develop a plan tailored to its students’ needs. While the state released guidance to assist Districts in the planning process, we have also accepted alternative ideas proposed by District leaders that accomplish the same objectives. We only insist that their plans include the key elements that are essential to successfully support our most disadvantaged students.

Key elements?… .  This is funny… I would point all readers and those listening in, to this administration’s track record of “working with” school districts… If you have any questions or need enlightenment, contact John Young of the Christina School board. Now, here is Sec. Murphy’s unsaid key element upon which he is working with local districts to implement to which Murphy just referred…. 

1) forcing necessary changes to the collective bargaining agreement within 75 days. (essential to support our most disadvantaged students?)

2) removing these schools completely from all district oversight and responsibility, so they are responsible only to the DOE, yet while taking a large portion of those local districts’ current funding… (essential to support our most disadvantaged students?) 

What has happened in the Priority Schools over the past decade has not worked. We need a sense of urgency about the fate of our children, recognizing that today, they do not have a fair chance to work their way out of poverty.

Falsehood.  According to the NAEP, these schools have improved over decades. According to the DCAS and DSTP, they are were not going backwards, up until Charter Schools began stealing their top students.  Most of us, if we lost our heads, would have a hard time functioning… Same principle applies to when top students get pulled out of a public school system…. So if Secretary Murphy is implying the entire Charter Program over the past decade has not worked well, then we are in surprising agreement. But his past actions make me inclined to doubt that is what he is implying.  There is only one way out of poverty. Privatizing education is not it. Attacking the basic reason for poverty, is… These children of which he speaks so disparagingly of today’s schools, are far better educated than Jea Street, Mayor Williams, Tom Gorden, Stormin’ Norman, and all the eloquent pastors Wilmington has, as well as you and I.  We did not get this good quality of an education when we were young. Yet we turned out amazingly well… Education has gotten better over 40 years!  What is different here is that a very stupidly-hard test is being used to separate society into two halves… You’re ok; you are not.

We should find inspiration in the success of schools in our state that have achieved results. And we should expect nothing less for all of our children.

On a personal note,… am I really the only one, who thinks “the children” are the least of his concerns?

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