News Journal report on Flexibility waiver request meeting misses key points. #netDE

My comments in red 

Feedback sought on public schools | The News Journal |

by Nichole Dobo

More than 80 people attended Delaware’s Department of Education town hall meeting Wednesday night, the first gathering of its kind to collect feedback on its proposal to change the state’s public school accountability system. Seems like a lot right? When you consider the nearly 50,000 children and count the DOE folks which the 80 number does (I counted 83 BTW) and you assume one parent per child that yields a percentage of .00166, or less than 2 tenths of one percent…now remember I am using only one parent per child in my math….. So, why is the article’s tone designed to sound like “more than 80″ is high turnout (further buttressed by DOE Deputy saying Deputy Secretary of Education Dan Cruce said he’s happy with the meeting turnout, and hopes the next two meetings in Kent and Sussex counties will continue to move the conversation.??? Well, that’s because the DOE needs it come across that way as evidenced by Mr. Cruce’s comments. Why the News Journal would not contextualize the attendance is beyond me, but I am happy to provide this service. Update 1/5/11 from Delaware Ed.: My use of “more than 80″ was not intended to inflate the importance of how many people attended the meeting. The “more than” was selected because 83 people signed in, and to start a sentence “83 people attended” is not accepted journalism style, better known as AP Style. Also, it’s possible that not everyone signed in, so 83 might have been flat-out wrong. Thus, “More than 80 people …” was born. John noted that I did not include the total population of the county to show how few people this is in relation to the county’s size. It is my sincere belief that readers of The News Journal know there are way more than 80 people living in New Castle County, so I thought it was not necessary to include the total population of the county in my story. If I was writing for The New York Times, or some other national newspaper, I would have included the county population because it would have been safe to assume people would not know it and that added context would be necessary….. Glad to know we are subject to your discretion Ms. Dobo.

 The nearly three-hour meeting at the New Castle County Government Building brought together community members, parents, teachers, board members and elected officials who wanted to learn more about the state’s plan or share opinions. The state is in the process of applying to the U.S. Department of Education to make changes in the way it holds schools accountable for student success on academic assessments as part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Before the public was asked for input, state Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery and her staff gave an overview of complex changes that have been proposed. The most notable would

be changes to the way schools are rated, what test-score benchmarks they’d need to reach each year and the interventions or rewards given to those schools. Lowery told the crowd to feel comfortable sharing opinions on the proposed changes. Sharing opinions and offering feedback and input are two entirely different things….

“If you don’t push back appropriately What is the world does this mean? Push back only in a way that is acceptable to her? the DOE? or Mr. Harrell, the real leader of the DOE?, then we won’t have the best product for Delaware,” she said.

The crowd did push back. Some wondered if the state’s plan focused too much on test scores rather than talking about children. Others thought the state was spending too much time testing children. One teacher told the crowd that she thought the state’s new testing and data focus was helping boost learning. Another teacher stood up later to say the system was broken. And Dr. Lowery invited him to tell her what’s in the way so she can look into removing his obstacles….what he was trying to tell her was that her department are the ones laying the land mines…..a perfect example of how tone deaf the meeting came of as….this teacher was asked, somewhat rudely and vociferously from across the room to identify himself by Mr. Harrell with tone and body language that suggested he is taking names and keeping score….a rather petulant and pathetic display… from where I sat I saw him attack, it wasn’t professional at all. I guess if Mr. Harrell can do that in public then the DOE is OK with that…we’ll see Tuesday night when I turn my microphone on them….as someone might say “again”.

The night seemed to center on answering baseline questions about what’s in place now. Roy Locker, a taxpayer and a grandfather who lives in Newark, pointed to a timeline reaching back to 1983 offered by the state in its presentation as proof that decades of work have gone on already. Why hasn’t all that change fixed schools yet, he asked.

New Castle County Councilman Jea Street held up a copy of the state’s proposal that he downloaded off the Internet and spent time reading. He noted that he thought many of the suggestions matched what many in the community had been asking for for years, such as mental health services and other outreach to troubled youth.

“I support this,” he said of the state’s proposal. Right after he said that every time he has asked for the things in the waiver that he like, the state has NEVER delivered. He was hopeful, he did say he supported it as reported, but he was CLEARLY conflicted/concerned/skeptical about past performance of the state to deliver. Why only share the optimistic quote and not Jea’s more thoughtful, nuanced and balanced concern? (disclaimer, I was approximately 5 feet from Councilman Street as he said what he said)

Delaware PTA President Yvonne Johnson said she hopes the state will better help parents understand the changes by limiting the use of acronyms and other governmental jargon when explaining the issue. That’s something the state says it will work on.

Deputy Secretary of Education Dan Cruce said he’s happy with the meeting turnout, and hopes the next two meetings in Kent and Sussex counties will continue to move the conversation.

At the end it was evident, no collaboration was truly sought, turnout was DISGUSTINGLY low, and we will get a new smorgasbord of labels and names and rules to follow….none of which will help ONE single child, just give adults more crap to do…..

Update: I think I may have struck a nerve.….I’ll be striking a few more Tuesday night.


4 thoughts on “News Journal report on Flexibility waiver request meeting misses key points. #netDE

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