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News & Stories About Delaware And Education
Why so many referendums explained
Jarek Rutz of DelawareLive takes a deeper dive into the factors driving the need for six of the largest school districts to hold tax increase referendums this year.
LEARN MORE (3-min read)
Financial literacy required classes rising
Personal finance classes have become a requirement for high school graduation in dozens of states in the past few years, sparking hope for activists that financial literacy is finally receiving the support it deserves.
In this Delaware Online opinion piece, the authors explain why it’s so important that Delaware get on board with this movement.
READ MORE (3-min read)
A DelawareLive in-depth report on education funding
Funding education takes up 1/3 of the state’s total budget, and ask yourselves the question: are our children and taxpayers getting their money’s worth? Not so much judging by the results of their test scores. This piece looks at where much of the $2 Billion in the Governor’s Budget is going and determine how much goes to learning the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic.
READ THE ARTICLE (5-min read)
Colonial SD town hall answers citizens' concerns
DelawareLive reported on a virtual town hall held by the Colonial School District. The major concerns had to do with the proposed $50 million sports complex and tax increases. Scroll down the January 10, 2024 DelawareLive item about the tax assessment impacts to read this section:
When asked about the tax impact of both the referendum and property reassessments, the Colonial chief finance director Emily Falcon said that if the property values quadruple, the school tax rate would be cut by a fourth, since the district by law must remain revenue neutral.
“We can’t get any more money after reassessment than we’re getting right now,” Falcon said, “Unless the school board chooses to take that little bit extra that they’re allowed to under Delaware law.”
That “little bit extra” is up to a 10% increase in the district’s local revenue. So if the revenue is $50 million, the maximum revenue increase would be an extra $5 million, which would be reflected in the tax rate and spread out among district residents.
Yard signs inform residents of education issues
These signs will appear around the state from time to time to draw attention to the issues driving Delaware’s poor performance in public schools. The purpose is to prompt residents to become better informed, learn about solutions that could improve student outcomes and insist that school leaders finally start showing upward movement on test scores.
Citizens for Delaware Schools announces its first sponsorship
The organizers explain the compelling reasons Citizens for Delaware Schools wanted to support this worthy effort.
“Spelling bees help promote literacy by providing children with a positive goal to work toward and gives them a forum to display the fruits of
their hard work.
The bees also aid children in learning, improving comprehension and developing study skills. The benefits of spelling bees extend beyond language. Since children are required to spell words while on stage, kids also develop self-confidence, communication and public speaking skills, and the ability to thrive under pressure.”
BREAKING: Cape Henlopen School District referendum set for March 26
On January 27, 2024, the Cape Henlopen School Board approved Superintendent Robert Fulton’s recommendation to ask voters to approve a 2-part referendum covering operating costs and capital expenses to address the continuing growth of students in the district.
Breakdown of Costs
The $77.6 million capital expense portion will go for a new district office, the purchase of land to build new schools, a bus maintenance facility, and a natatorium (swimming facility). The $6 million operating cost part will cover items such as staff salaries, school safety measures, and increased energy costs.
You can WATCH the January 27 School Board meeting about the referendum, starting at 40 minutes 20 seconds into the meeting.
Community meetings will be held to help voters learn more about the need, how the money will be spent and the impact on property owners’ taxes. See the EVENTS page for times and location.
Survey says most underestimate public school spending
Education Choice released the results of its 11th Annual Schooling in America survey that looked at the perceptions of Americans about education. The survey was conducted in the spring of 2023. Let’s first look at one of those: spending
Most Americans and parents drastically underestimate public school spending until given the facts.
The median parent respondent guessed that spending per student is $5,000 annually. The actual lowest state average per student was $9,104 in 2021.
For comparison, Delaware’s average spend per student in 2022 was $18,604.
Facts Change Perceptions
While 75% of respondents underestimated the cost, 81% of school parents did.
The research then tested how the percentage changes when a publicly reported funding statistic was placed in front of them. No surprise that fewer Americans (43%) think funding is too low vs 58% of those who don’t have such information.
Smyrna School District sets March 9 for its referendum
The Smyrna School District is seeking voter approval for a referendum to fund operating and capital project spending they say is needed.
The capital request of $37 million for school expansions and a new intermediate school reflects the additional costs as a result of inflation.
The operating funding would go to salaries, mental health supports, technology, constables, and extracurricular activities for the middle school.
Voters are urged to attend one of the public meetings to determine their support prior to voting.
See our EVENTS page for listed times and locations. The District website has more details.
Voters voice concerns about Appoquinimink referendum
(2 minute read)
The community showed up to an Appoquinimink School District town hall January 22 and expressed their belief students should be able to do well with schools staying within their budget.
They pointed out that some of the requests have to do with what they perceive as unnecessary spending on top-of-the-line buildings when more money should be directed to teachers’ pay.
Read this short WDEL article with citizens expressing their views.
Education's newest "R": Reversal in learning
(10 minute read)
A Jan. 23, 2024 RealClearInvestigation article pulls many threads together in an understandable explanation for the dire state of education. The author Vince Bielski uses studies to back up his claims. Some highlights:
- Money without accountability will not solve our education crisis. Students had learning loss despite federal COVID spending of an average 6% increase per school for four years. Now that extra funding is ending.
- As learning declined, so did academic standards. More than 40 states eased requirements in 2020. (Source: Report in Education Week)
- Parents haven’t been much help. Either
- Most don’t know about the dive in test scores or don’t care.
- Today’s inflated grades may give them an impression that their kids are doing better than they are.
- High-dosage tutoring works if it is integrated into the school day and occurs at least three times a week.
Milford School Board gets update on student literacy and discipline
Editor’s Note: Milford School District is addressing many issues that Citizens for Delaware Schools defines as key to get education back on track. Here are two short stories that demonstrate progress driven by an effective School Board.
Officials in the Milford School District answered questions and gave updates Jan. 22 about the progress of the district’s literacy plan.
READ MORE (3 minute read)
Plan to Address Discipline Issues
Here is a recent story from Delaware Live that looks in-depth at discipline issues and the steps to address them at several schools.
READ MORE (5 minute read)
CRI: Money is not the problem with schools
Recently the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) released a $700,000 Education Funding Study that recommended Delaware increase its education spending by $600 million to $1 billion more to improve education in Delaware. Such a staggering amount would require legislation to enact.
Delaware already ranks near the top in spending on education while near the bottom in academic performance. So, is more money the answer? Or can some other action be tried first?
The Caesar Rodney Institute took a closer look.
How ideology slips into the teaching of math
If you’ve ever wondered how ideology is used in math, Max Eden of the American Enterprise Institute examines how California’s recently adopted, highly controversial math framework weaves ideological assertions into curriculum as “evidence-based” best practices. He reveals how there is no evidence that such an approach increases math proficiency.
Note how the students react to the math word problem example.
*Pedagogy is a term that refers to the method of how teachers teach, in theory and in practice.
Removing cellphones from classrooms improves learning
We’ve seen videos of kids going berserk when their cell phones are taken from them. The U.K., France and China already implemented student bans on cell phones. Will the U.S. be next?
Two articles from the Fordham Institute take a comprehensive look at why removal of cell phones in class is a good idea, the challenges in implementing such a policy and finally, solutions.
What might a ban policy look like?
Research shows how addictive cellphones have become and that many high tech executives limit their children’s use of them. Daniel Buck, a former educator, discusses ways to bring this same common-sense approach in the interest of improving student learning.
Red Clay school district referendum session
MONDAY, DECEMBER 18, 5pm
This Monday, December 18, at 5 pm,
James Spadola will host a Zoom conversation with Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Dorrell Green to discuss and learn more about the Red Clay School District referendum.
On February 28, residents of Red Clay will vote on a Tax Increase Referendum. Join this conversation to hear the viewpoint of the Red Clay Superintendent.
Update on Brandywine School District referendum
2/14/24 – Voters overwhelmingly approve Brandywine SD referendum
Details about Brandywine School District’s February 13, 2024 referendum was discussed at the School Board meeting on Monday, December 18 at 7 p.m. It’s a chance to get details about how their tax dollars will be spent if the referendum is approved.
The average homeowner would see a $181.75 increase in taxes in the first year, and then $145.40 increase thereafter.
The Brandywine School District website has complete details and a taxpayer calculator.
Appo voters reject school referendum
Voters in the Appoquinimink School District narrowly rejected all three parts of a referendum in a Dec. 12 special election. The district was asking for $82.9 million to pay for three new schools (capital funds), increased staff pay (operational funding) and the building of a larger bus lot (extension of capital funds).
Appoquinimink’s nearly 2,000 teachers are the lowest paid of the traditional public school districts in New Castle County, according to a WDEL.com story.
It’s the first failed referendum in Appoquinimink since 2013, after successful campaigns in 2019 and 2016. Delaware allows districts to come back one additional time for capital requests, before the state moves its funds to meet another district’s request. The board will try again on April 23, 2024.
School referendums coming up for votes
Appoquinmink, Brandywine, Colonial and Red Clay School Districts are moving ahead with special elections on referendums in the next 3 months to help fund their schools’ operating and capital expenses/needs. Each district will be communicating about the needs and impact to taxpayers.
Appoquinimink School District is the first up, with their special election fast approaching on December 12. They are seeking a total of $82.9 million across three separate votes to cover operating costs such as teacher salaries plus capital expenses to build three new schools and a larger bus lot. On average, property taxes would increase by $435 annually if approved. The School District has more information on its website. READ MORE
How funding requests work
Referendums are funded two ways:
1. The state generally approves and then pays 60% for the requested projects.
2. The rest (generally 40%) must be funded locally, which means through increased property taxes. Voters must approve this funding before districts can get the state money.
Three school districts' referendums slated for February
Brandywine, Red Clay and Colonial School Districts will ask voters to approve their school referendums in February 2024.
Brandywine School District’s election is February 13. No other information is available currently other than the funds will be used for operating expenses. On average, property taxes would increase by $180 in the first year, slightly less in the second. READ MORE
Red Clay School District will hold a special election for their $265 million funding request on February 28, 2024 for capital projects. The average homeowner will see taxes raised about $404 over three years. The district’s last referendum occurred in 2015.
Colonial School District puts their referendum to a vote on February 29, 2024. They will seek $48.8 million for capital and operating costs. With the average Colonial household assessed value set at $62,547, the average district homeowner will see an annual increase of $250.19 in taxes.
One thing to keep in mind: upcoming notices of property reassessments
According to Delaware Online, the plan is to mail new property assessments to New Castle County property owners starting in November 2024, based on these adjusted values to calculate new tax bills starting with 2025. This means homeowners may face two property tax increases in 2025.
CLARIFICATION: Several school district officials stress that the referendum tax impact will be “revenue neutral”, meaning that by law adjustments will be made so only one increase will occur.
Reproductive Health Services approved for McCullough Middle School
At its November meeting, the Colonial School Board approved the use of reproductive health services such as birth control and sexually transmitted disease testing at the McCullough Middle School. McCullough parents must initially opt-in by signing a consent form. After that, parents will not be informed of their child’s care unless the student tells them, or they get a bill from their insurance company. If parents don’t consent, their children will still receive the other health services provided.
A parent who asks the school-based health center if their child was treated there will not be able to receive such information due to privacy laws of the school and the health care provider (in this case Nemours).
One Board member noted that McCullough’s students are 82% minority, 42% low income, and 20% with a disability – and therefore at higher risk for pregnancies or sexual predation. Delaware teenage pregnancies are 3.5%, ranking 25th in the nation.
Go to section 8E in the School Board Agenda to review the enrollment form.
Two Title 1 schools named Distinguished Schools
Smyrna Elementary and West Seaford Elementary received national recognition as examples of superior federally funded Title 1 school programs. The honor is given by the National ESEA.
Smyrna earned its recognition as a 2023 Distinguished School for Closing the Achievement Gap between student groups and progress on standardized achievement tests.
West Seaford gained recognition as a Distinguished School for Excellence in Serving Special Populations and progress towards English Language proficiency among multilingual learners during the 2022-23 school year.
(Source: Delaware.gov, Nov. 1, 2023)
Now available: Videos from CRI event
Those who were unable to attend the September Education Freedom forum are now able to view the presentations on the Citizens For Delaware Schools You Tube Channel.
Each video contains information and insights that will help you understand the challenges to and possible solutions for improving public education.
Segments touch on academic achievement, school discipline and safety, student and teacher absenteeism, parental involvement and new models for the delivery of education to meet the individual needs of each student.
New education freedom model urged
At the September Caesar Rodney Institute Education Freedom forum, Rachelle Engen, senior policy analyst on Foundational Education for AFP, outlined a new model for education that fits better with today’s information age.
She started off making the point that education is an outdated system that was created in the industrial age when ‘one size fits all’ was meant for factory workers.
So what’s the answer? A customized model that enables parents to meet their child’s specific needs. It involves:
- Allow the money to follow the child
- Open enrollment to go to the school you think best for your child (Delaware does offer this)
- Education your way – allow students to select a combination of school settings
WATCH (14 minutes)
The plan to improve learning in city schools revealed
The Wilmington Learning Collaboration plans to spend $16.6million through June 2024 to improve learning in city schools. The collaborative’s goal is to improve academic and societal achievement for students at nine city of Wilmington elementary schools across the Brandywine, Christina and Red Clay school districts.
Education Freedom event draws a crowd
More than 80 people attended an inaugural Education Freedom meeting on September 28, 2023 to give families an opportunity to hear from experts about the issues holding back educational progress and possible actions people can take to help improve student outcomes. The Caesar Rodney Institute and Americans for Prosperity Foundation sponsored the event.
Milford parents voice concern about school safety, bullying
At the November 2023 Milford School Board meeting, concerned parents spoke out about the continued level of violence and bullying their children encounter at elementary schools, high schools and on the school buses. There’s even a ‘fight club’ at one school.
Thurgood Marshall Elementary stands out for this reason
As one of three National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2023, Marshall Elementary school’s application summarized its success this way: “The instructors at Marshall Elementary are deeply committed to facilitating students’ academic accomplishments, firmly believing in the potential of excellence in every learner, irrespective of background or ability.”
The astounding fact about this accomplishment?
Most Marshall Elementary students are minorities, yet the school spends only $13,000 per student (compared to the statewide average of $17,000 per student) and performs well above the average on test scores.
Last year’s honorees from Delaware
The three schools that won the award last year were Cab Calloway School of the Arts and Linden Hill Elementary, both in Red Clay Consolidated School District, and North Dover Elementary in Colonial School School District.
Three Delaware schools named Blue Ribbon schools
Closing achievement gaps is possible. Three schools in Delaware were among the 353 across America that were named National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2023. The recognition is based on overall performance and achievement in closing gaps among diverse student groups. The three schools are:
- Olive B. Loss Elementary School, Appoquinimink School District
- Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, Christina School District
- Lord Baltimore Elementary School, Indian River School District
All three schools enroll close to 600 students each. Here’s how each of them compared to Delaware’s state schools for the 2022-23 school year:
States are raising reading scores of third-graders. Here's how
An old-fashioned solution with a twist appears to be working
The Wall Street Journal reports that at least 16 states are requiring struggling students to repeat third grade to improve their literacy. Parents and school board members in some of these states were hesitant at first.
Holding kids back didn’t turn out to be as bad as feared. For one thing, these so-called retention laws offer extra tutoring, summer school and teacher training to get poor performing students up to standards before the new school year. The programs also exercise flexibility, especially for special education students or English language learners. The result: very few students are held back.
In Nashville, Tennessee, roughly 70% of third graders tested below proficient in reading. All but 1.4% of them ultimately advanced to the next grade. In other states – Michigan for one – outcry was so fierce that the governor there rescinded the law.
Teacher absenteeism calls for staff flexibility, strategies
A human resources director for the largest school district in Sussex County shocked a House Education Committee hearing in April when she told them about 300 of its 1,000 educators are off on any given school day.
Dr. Bunting spoke at a town hall last May sponsored by the Citizens for Delaware Schools about the challenges of reducing teacher shortages.
About 800 of those educators are teachers, and their absenteeism rains down problems for the district, said Celeste Bunting, director of human resources at Indian River School District.
For a look at the situation for other school districts, read more in this July 11 article at Delaware Live.
Milford School Board removes restorative practices section
The Milford School District’s Board voted to remove the section about restorative practices from the student code of conduct. Although restorative practices have been flushed from the code, School Board Member Matt Bucher said that the board in no way is condemning the use of restorative practices.
Rather, he said, the requirements of that section weren’t clear enough in the code, which made it difficult for teachers to consistently use and caused confusion for the community. He added that teachers may use the techniques voluntarily as a classroom management tool.
For more, read this August 1, 2023 Delaware Live story.
Civics, history scores for 8th graders slump to lowest scores ever
Teaching students to understand aspects of American history and government such as the rule of law, trial by jury and civil rights is important to the health of our representative republic (also called democracy).
According to the data released by the U.S. Department of Education, 31% of eighth-graders performed below basic level in civics in 2022. Those students were unable to correctly answer questions asking them to identify basics such as common characteristics shared by all constitutional governments.
National Center for Education Statistics Commissioner Dr. Peggy Carr said, “These data are a national concern. The health of our democracy depends on informed and engaged citizens.”
Other findings include:
- 49% of 8th graders report taking a civics class.
- 29% of teachers primarily teach civics
- Higher performing students see themselves able to make a difference in their community.
These results may explain why only 18% of those aged 18-34 say they are proud of their country, a record year (Source: Gallup Poll). Note how this percentage corresponds to the percentage of 14-year-olds who passed a civics test. This is why civics education matters.
Delaware state legislature introduces 31 education bills
The Delaware Legislative session ended June 30. Here are several bills on education your state legislators introduced. Bills not passed into law this year will roll over to the start of the second half of the 152nd session in January 2024.
This Delaware Live article does a nice job summarizing other education-related bills.
HB 230 will make Delaware a sanctuary state for medical experimentation on children confused about their gender
This bill would allow minors in states where such surgeries are illegal to receive care in our state. It also allows Delaware to take custody of children in certain circumstances and order irreversible ‘sex-change’ surgery. It gives medical professionals immunity from lawsuits resulting from botched surgeries or lack of informed consent. See more at the Delaware Family Policy Council website.
HB 3, 4, 5, 6, 200 is a package of bills to provide mental health services to students
HB 3: Students with more than two excused absences for mental health will be referred to a behavioral specialist and report entered into a state database. Passed.
HB 4: Schools get more behavioral health support in aftermath of a school-connected event such as death of a student or school employee. Passed.
HB 200: Establishes a mental health services unit for Delaware high schools. In the Appropriations Committee. Read the bill
Educators tout what they consider legislation highlights in this TownSquare Live article. It’s worth a read.
DISCLAIMER: Content is intended for informational and convenience purposes. We make no claims to accuracy when editing for space. Go here to read the actual bills. Third-party sites are responsible for their content.
Red Clay English teacher resigns for these reasons
Amy Norton, an English high school teacher for seven years, spoke at the June 21 Red Clay School Board meeting. She explained she was leaving the district because she believes student learning should be enriched by reading literature and that’s not happening.
Freshmen in her classes read only one piece of literature: Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. Sophomores didn’t read one poem or novel.
She said she was told that the district wants 70% of school reading to be non-fiction.
“I was told that science and social studies teachers are not trained and can’t be relied upon to teach our students to comprehend the non-fiction texts that they use within their classrooms.”
She said she believes “literacy is an interdisciplinary skill all teachers can teach.”
Reading literary fiction is important. Here’s why.
It helps kids gain empathy.
Literary fiction aims to resemble real life. Some literary fiction examples include To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, and A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.
While reading non-fiction is fine for building knowledge about a subject, neuroscience research suggests that reading literary fiction helps students develop compassion and the critical thinking side of their brain.
Good literature presents characters with competing and often equally valid viewpoints. The insight gained from this reading experience gives one an expanded ability to understand and respond to multiple competing viewpoints.
University of Toronto researchers discovered in their study that individuals who read short stories tend to be more thoughtful, creative, and comfortable with competing narratives.
At the Princeton Social Neuroscience Lab, psychologist Diana Tamir demonstrated (using brain scans) that people who often read fiction are more skilled at working out what other people are thinking and feeling.
One-fourth 14-year-olds passed the NAEP civics test
Only 20% of 8th graders nationally passed the national civics test, with many students unable to answer even the most basic questions.
The NAEP civics assessment covers:
- Civic life, politics and government
- The foundations of the American political system
- How the government established by the Constitution embodies the purposes, values and principles of American democracy
- The relationship of the United States to other nations and to world affairs
- The role of citizens in the American democracy
Want to test your knowledge?
This sample test from the 2022 NAEP civics assessment contains 19 questions given to eighth-graders. If you want to see how you fare, take the civics test here.
After completing the questions, you can see the correct answers, scoring rubrics, and student performance results.
Be a volunteer reporter
Citizens for Delaware Schools is recruiting volunteers to report on highlights of monthly school board meetings in their districts. Your summary of the meeting will be posted to this site.
C4DS is also seeking stories about what’s happening in the schools. Send a note to info@citizens4delaware schools.org (see the Contact Us page) .
Two girls attacked at Stanton Middle School
In February, a 13-year girl with special needs was viciously attacked by classmates inside their classroom at Stanton Middle School.
Her friend rushed in to defend her and became another victim. The assault was captured on video.
Stanton Middle School is part of the Red Clay School District.
The victims’ mothers say that the threats were reported in advance to the school but no action was taken.
Parents plead for safety at Brandywine school board meeting
(Feb. 7, 2023) – Complaints about safety at Springer Middle School at Monday night’s Brandywine School District meeting devolved into a shouting match between a board member and a parent. About 12 parents and several students told the Brandywine School Board the same thing:
They’re concerned and outraged about the lack of action after bullying, fights and other events have compromised student and staff safety.
They referred to an incident that ended up with Springer Middle School Principal Tracy Woodson in need of an ambulance and out of work for a week.
Glasgow teacher holds Gender & Sexuality Alliance Club meetings during class time
A Glasgow High School teacher admits in a video that she holds her school’s weekly GSA meetings during regular class hours so parents don’t know about it. She stated she received administrator approval to have students removed during class time.
The district said it was unaware that instructional time is being used for extracurricular activities. “We are reviewing the post and meeting with the individuals involved to resolve it immediately, ensuring equity and respect for all students in our schools.”
Education watchdog Eye Inside the Classroom posted the video to Twitter. Meanwhile, public records indicate the school is well below state averages in 2022 test scores: 23% proficient in English and 5% proficient in Math. The graduation rate is 72%.
Caesar Rodney School District holds a White Privilege teacher workshop
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents show that Caesar Rodney School District knowingly denied the existence of a White Privilege workshop they held for teachers during an in-service day. TV Delmarva reported in depth what these teachers are experiencing.
Concord High students watched video with CRT concepts
During Black History month, students at Concord High School watched the video The Trouble With Not Seeing Color. This video implies teachers must treat students differently on the basis of the color of their skin. This premise – the opposite of what Martin Luther King Jr. taught – serves to divide students solely on an immutable characteristic – CRT in essence.
To say you have no control over the outcome of your life is demoralizing to Blacks and other minorities.
Brandywine School District adamantly denies teaching CRT.