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News & Stories About Delaware And Education
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. They will be conducting a communication campaign to inform voters.
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.
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). 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.