From Elizabeth Scheinberg: BOE Member
My comments are bold and in RED.
April 21, 2011 DOE PRESS RELEASE
State To Freeze Christina School District’s Race To The Top Dollars
Secretary of Education Lillian M. Lowery announced today that the Delaware Department of Education will freeze more than $11 million in federal Race to the Top (RTTT) dollars previously dedicated to the Christina School District. This action follows the Christina School Board’s vote Tuesday not to honor its agreement to implement its own previously approved reform plan at two of Delaware’s lowest-performing schools.
The Christina Board of Education did not vote “not to honor its agreement to implement its own previously approved reform plan.” The CBOE discovered errors and/or flaws in the two documents governing the selection process for the teachers at the two PZ schools. The Board voted to take corrective action – to retain and retrain the affected teachers – to offer positions to the 19 teachers. The district has already committed in the DOE-approved PZ plan to providing the necessary professional development for all educators at the PZ schools.
In addition to the more than $11 million in reform dollars, the district will also lose out on programs paid for with the state’s portion of RTTT funding. The Department also is reviewing what other fiscal and regulatory impacts could result from Christina’s actions.
In January 2010, the CBOE met in public session with Dr. Lowery to discuss the RTTT MOU. At that time, I asked Dr. Lowery what would happen if a district did not sign the MOU? She responded that, should Delaware win the RTTT funding, such a district would still benefit from the services that the DOE was committing to providing. She cited data coaches as an example. She also stated that PZ would become a regulation and participation would not be voluntary.
“Over the last three years, the average math and English Language Arts proficiency for students at Stubbs Elementary School has declined from 54.65% in 2008 to only 40.42% in 2010. Similarly, at Glasgow High School, the math and English Language Arts average proficiency declined from 41.28% in 2008 to 35.59% in 2010.” Lowery said. “We have a moral obligation to these children to do better for them, and the school board’s recent action retreats from that obligation.”
We absolutely have a moral obligation to do better for our children. I would argue that it is the Department of Education’s hasty and unreasonable response to an issue of local control that is a retreat from that obligation.
“We hope Christina’s leadership will come back to the table and return to the work they pledged to complete,” Lowery said. “The children in these struggling schools are counting on them to do so.”
Christina’s leadership did not walk away from the table nor the work they have pledged to complete. CBOE did NOT vote to exit the RTTT MOU or the PZ. Those suggestions were never even on the table, nor were they even discussed at the April 19th board meeting. The audio from that meeting is available on the Christina School District’s website.
This is blatant misinformation being dispensed by the Department of Education. Since April 19th, the DOE has chosen to communicate with the board through press releases and local media. They have not directed any concerns to this board member nor the board as a whole.
The children in these struggling schools are counting on the DOE to honor its commitment to fund the RTTT and PZ plans that Christina is actively implementing.
Because of the long-term failure of both schools to meet the needs of Delaware’s students, reform is needed.
Despite serious concerns regarding the models of reform offered to PZ schools and the lack of longitudinal data to support these reforms, and despite a culture of continuous reform and instability, I continue to support my educators who are dedicated to improving the achievement of our students.
In September, the state selected Christina’s Glasgow High and Stubbs Elementary schools as two of the first four schools in the state’s new Partnership Zone. Six more schools will be named this summer. As a key component of Delaware’s $119 Race to the Top plan, the Partnership Zone targets the state’s lowest performing schools with additional financial resources and technical assistance to implement aggressive reforms. Each school’s leadership chose a reform method and locally drafted a plan. Secretary Lowery approved those local plans in January.
Secretary Lowery has repeatedly articulated the need for learning from our mistakes and sharing best practices between the first cohort of PZ schools and six yet-to-be-named schools. CBOE has identified mistakes in the utilization of process. Rather than support CBOE in their exercise of local control and rectification, the DOE has frozen our funding. Sadly, actions are indeed louder than words.
Christina chose the transformation model for both of its schools. Among other important changes — including shifts in curricula, the addition of content-specific academies, extended instructional hours and intense intervention models – the plan developed by the district calls for school leadership and staff to re-interview for positions. Those not invited back would be moved to a position in another building that better complemented their talents. No teacher would lose any salary, benefits or seniority.
Yes, the plan called for teachers to re-interview for positions. However, when the board evaluated the results of the interviews the governing documents were found to be misleading. There were several interpretations of what should have occurred. Ultimately, the 20 minute interview was the only rubric used to determine selection when the documents indicate that other factors would be considered. In addition, the board found that there were violations of some requirements such as having the Campus Principal present at the interviews. The process also failed to be completed by assigned deadlines.
Christina, with the support of its teacher union, created a process for that selection that included a review panel dominated by teacher and local administrative representation. The district followed the process with fidelity, but on Tuesday, the school board voted not to accept the results of that process and to return teachers to their original classrooms.
1. Yes, the CEA and the district supported the process as it was designed. However, during the review of the utilization, the board identified flaws.
2. Board members voiced serious concerns about the fidelity of the process, the clarity of which was muddied by potentially conflicting documents.
3. The affected teachers were never removed from their original classrooms as the DOE press release would lead one to believe. In reality, the corrective action that the board chose to employ was to offer these teachers positions at the PZ schools next year, to retain and train. The teachers also retained the right to voluntarily transfer out of the PZ schools.
“The staffing process in dispute was outlined in an agreement that Christina’s leadership crafted, signed off on, and was charged with implementing,” Lowery said. “After implementing the process they agreed to, the Christina School Board now wants to change those rules. That’s not fair to anyone, particularly the students who could lose out.”
The board stipulated that union and district leadership “crafted, signed off on, and was charged with implementing” the agreement. This was not a matter of board seeking to change the rules. Again, we learned that we had failed to implement with fidelity and we took corrective action.
“The Christina School District developed its reform plan and sought federal/state financial assistance to make the plan a reality. The Christina School Board now seeks to back away from the very plan that resulted in the awarding of these funds.”
A Complete and Total LIE. The CBOE has not taken any steps “to back away from” that plan.
Lowery said she understands that real reform is going to bring push back.
“Change is hard, but it’s the only way to get different results,” she said. “Our children can’t afford for us to stick with the status quo because it’s easier or more comfortable. They deserve better, and as leaders, it’s our job to give them better.”
Improved outcomes for children: Do you want your plan implemented correctly? Or do you want it fast? This board chose to do it RIGHT. DOE has compelled the process to occur FAST. The only thing here that is STATUS QUO is the constant culture of DEFORM.
My message tonight to Christina, is that there are some among us who will continue to stand strong for our children, our students, who will work to cultivate an environment of success and achievement. We will fight for this district, we will fight for you.