A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words: Poverty And The Smarter Balanced Assessment

Filed in Delaware by on September 10, 2015

Last week LiberalGeek took a comment I posted about the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) scores and turned it into a graph.

Basically, LG took this:

School (RCCD 5th)……..PLI………..ELA 2015……..MATH 2015

North Star……………….3.8%………….92.2%…………..76.1%
Brandywine Springs…..9.0%………….85.4%…………..70.3%
Linden Hill……………….9.9%………….75.7%…………..59.6%
Forest Oak……………..37.2%………….59.0%………….46.2%
Richardson Park………61.4%…………29.5%……………..7.7%
Lewis Dual Lang……..73.2%………….20.4%…………….7.1%

And turned it into this:

Amazing, no?

Below you will find charts of the four districts that serve city of Wilmington students (click on charts below to enlarge). You will also find a chart of Charter Schools. Pay attention to the trend lines. Some are more obvious than others.

Before I continue, let me say this: I do not support the SBA, but since we’ll be using these scores to judge and label students, teachers and schools we need to look at the data. This test will have consequences.



I’m not very familiar with Colonial so I asked Brian from Those In Favor blog (a blog everyone should be reading, btw) to share his thoughts. Here’s what he says: Colonial has several hundred students that are bused out of Wilmington to the District and back each day.  You are correct that they do not have a school in the city, but they do educate a sizable number of children and those children live in areas affected by poverty so I think they are part of this, too.  That’s a big question mark for WEIC.  Colonial has no buildings in Wilmington, but their students will be transferred to Red Clay…so where will they attend school?

Good points, Brian. Thank you!

Christina School District


Christina shows a distinct PLI to SBA trend line. What to say about Christina? I’m not the best person for the job, so please share your thoughts in the comments. They still have the highest percent of low income students. I’m not sure removing the city of Wilmington will help as much some Newark residents seem to think. What I think will happen is their chart will end up looking more like Red Clay’s.




The Brandywine (BSD) chart looks different from the others. The trend line exists, but there’s a lot more noise. Does this mean BSD is doing a better job with their high poverty population? We don’t know that. What I do know is that BSD said “No” to the Neighborhood Schools Act, limits Choice and doesn’t house charters. In addition, BSD has placed its most desirable programs (TAG/IB) in its least desirable schools. These programs probably explain Mount Pleasant High School (IB), P.S duPont Middle (TAG), and Claymont Elementary (TAG) School’s higher test scores.
*What’s going on at Talley Middle and Harlan Elementary? Aren’t they still IB schools? Harlan has the highest poverty numbers so that may answer my question. I’m not getting Talley. Anyone know the answer?
So, while I can’t say if BSD’s poverty population is scoring well on SBA, I can say that the schools these children attend offer programs missing from other districts’ high poverty schools. And everyone knows I believe programs make a school and keep it viable and attractive to all families.

Red Clay School District


Gotta hand it to Red Clay. The pattern is amazing… almost deliberate? Wow. Are we really considering giving Red Clay (RCCD) more of our city children? I’m not comfortable with that decision. Take a look at the three high schools (A.I., Dickinson and McKean) that everyone in Red Clay is assigned to and ask yourself this: Are you okay with buying a house that comes with a high school lottery ticket? Don’t kid yourself, property values are affected, and going by this chart it’s no longer just city property values. Mike O. and I called this several years ago. We said what was happening in the city would spread outward.

17 out 26 RCCD schools of are below the 50% mark on the SBA. Nine schools are above it. Four of those nine schools are charters and/or magnets – which means to gain entry a student has to complete an application, and/or audition, take a “placement” test, etc.. The five public schools above the 50% line consist of four elementary schools (which come with attendance zones) and one middle school. That’s a pretty poor track record.  Hmmm… we probably need a chart showing RCCD’s public schools only – schools that have an attendance zone and don’t require any applications for admission.

Which brings me to WEIC – Wilmington Education Improvement Commission. I don’t envy this commission one bit. The task before them is daunting, especially given the inevitable push back heading their way. But I have to ask this: Given Red Clay’s chart above, why would anyone think RCCD would be a good choice for our highest needs kids? If WEIC goes down this path with RCCD  then the conditions/rules/funding, etc. must be carved in stone. Remember how the Priority Schools had a “punishment” attached if the schools didn’t improve? May I suggest attaching something similar to RCCD if they continue on the path they’re on? Joking? Sorta. Not really.

Charter Schools

Look at that! It’s almost as pretty as Red Clay’s chart.

First, can we finally put to rest the myth that charters perform better than public schools. For schools with the luxury of controlling their population you’d think this chart would look different. When it comes to poverty, even charters aren’t immune.

Second, I guess we’ll have quite a few charters being labeled Priority Schools.

I’m really not sure what else to say about charters. This chart shows that they are a failed experiment.  When you look at “successful” (and boy am I using that term loosely) charters it’s easy to see that their “secret sauce” is who they let into their school and not what goes on in the classroom. And our tax dollars are funding this. Meanwhile, true public schools continue to lose money, programs, teachers, etc. – they also have to take all students, even the ones charters don’t take or keep.

The only silver lining I see with the Charter School chart is that a lot of people are going to need to sit down and be quiet about Charter awesomeness. It simply isn’t true.

In closing I want to take a moment to thank all the people who spent a large part of their holiday weekend (and are still working, and will be working for quite some time) compiling data, checking figures, making charts, etc.. Everyone was amazing. So hats off to LiberalGeek who started it all and continues to help chart; to Brian of Those In Favor blog for creating spreadsheets and charts – if you aren’t reading his blog you are missing out. Thanks to Kevin Ohlandt for his data checking and contagious passion. Kevin has become a leading voice in Delaware Education with his blog, Exceptional Delaware. (Go read him!) And a special thank you to Rep. Kim Williams who tirelessly answered our questions and helped review mountains of data.

Exceptional Delaware has a post up on this issue, as well. Go Read It!

Here’s an excerpt:

What Governor Markell seems to lack insight into or just plain ignores is the impact of poverty on children’s education.  It isn’t something “rigor” and “grit” can fix.  It’s a matter of increasing the funding to these schools, and not under the guise of priority schools or focus schools.  It means lowering the size of classrooms, increasing special education funding, and judging children based on a once a year test the clearly shows how much poverty does matter.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment is not improving education. It is making it more difficult for schools to get the true reform they need.

And… buckle up. More charts are coming!

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A stay-at-home mom with an obsession for National politics.

Comments (63)

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  1. Jason330 says:

    I’m really not sure what else to say about charters. This chart shows that they are a failed experiment. When you look at “successful” (and boy am I using that term loosely) charters it’s easy to see that their “secret sauce” is who they let into their school and not what goes on in the classroom. And our tax dollars are funding this. Meanwhile, true public schools continue to lose money, programs, teachers, etc. – they also have to take all students, even the ones charters don’t take or keep.

    The only silver lining I see with the Charter School chart is that a lot of people are going to need to sit down and be quiet about Charter awesomeness. It simply isn’t true.

    What has always been obvious is now obvious and less possible to ignore. Great blogging.

  2. Delaware Dem says:

    Excellent post. Thanks LG and Pandora!

  3. liberalgeek says:

    My role is minimal. You wouldn’t believe the hours that people spent over the last week on this for no reason other than getting a fair shake for our kids.

    Please give all of the credit to them.

    Oh, and all of the blame should go to the shitty school districts. I personally predicted this outcome to Iris Metts (Christina) in the mid-90’s when she got on the Community Schools bandwagon. I was pooh-poohed as a worry wart.

  4. pandora says:

    These charts show what everyone with functioning brain cells always knew.

    Districts, DOE and Legislators are to blame. Choice is out of control and the go-to excuse. Got a problem with your school, you’ll be told to choice. See? That lets DOE and districts off the hook for addressing the problem.

    When RCCD came to Highlands (to sell the referendum) and parents asked what the district was going to do to improve their school they received an ode to the upcoming BofA megacharter and then heard a lot about the possibility of a city district.

    It’s really time to hold those in charge responsible. They created this mess.

    (And LG is being modest. Did you forget about our Friday night data phone call after midnight, LG?)

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thank you to everyone’s hard work on the graphs. Very enlightening.

  6. mediawatch says:

    Well done, Pandora. And kudos to you and Kevin and everyone else involved in this effort.
    I’ve been watching this — and occasionally writing about it — since the ’70s, in the pre-deseg era (anybody remember the De La Warr School District?) and only the district boundaries have changed.
    I share the misgivings expressed about handing over all Christina city schools, and the city’s Colonial students, to Red Clay, but there’s no easy way around it. One option I’ve mentioned (and this has come up in previous years) would be to give some of those kids and schools to Brandywine, perhaps by making the Brandywine the dividing line between the Red Clay and Brandywine districts. (This would move Warner and Shortlidge from Brandywine to Red Clay.)
    Red Clay should not be rewarded (if that’s the right word) and more children potentially punished by being assigned to the district that has done more than any other to promote resegregation through its district-wide embrace of choice and its authorization of charter schools under its jurisdiction.
    I’m generalizing a little bit here, but these two hypotheses would apply in most instances, regardless of whether a school is charter or traditional, and no matter where it might be located:
    If a school’s PLI 60%.
    If a school’s PLI >40%, its ELA proficiency <40%.
    (Forget math for a minute, many schools have proficiency ratings that are downright embarrassing.)
    In that context, moving schools into different districts would be meaningless. What has the potential to make a difference would be creating a new statewide education funding formula that would provide greater percentages of resources to schools above a certain PLI level. And I'd do it in a progressive fashion, a la a proper income tax system, with resources increasing in step with increased PLI levels.
    I would not advocate depriving schools with low PLI of basic resources, so I would start the supplements in the area of 35 percent PLI, just below the tipping point of where scores generally begin their precipitous decline, in the hope of keeping borderline schools from slipping below the median.
    Supplemental funds would be allocated specifically to schools (not to their districts) based on PLI calculations from the previous academic year. I have no idea how large the supplements might have to be, and I have no illusions (delusions?) about how the General Assembly would react to such an innovative (revolutionary?) program with the state's overall financial structure weakening, not to mention in an election year.
    Developing such a funding plan is, to my thinking, probably the most significant challenge WEIC is facing — and the important thing to remember is that the new funding system would have to apply statewide, as poverty affects Dover, Laurel and Georgetown and West Rehoboth just as it does Wilmington. The number of students may be smaller, but the impact is just as significant.

  7. Brian says:

    Pandora, I find it very, very interesting that RCCSD discussed a “city district” as part of a bigger message to get residents to vote yes for the referendum. I also find it concerning that a DISTRICT answer to “how are you going to make our schools better?” was “Charters!”

    This post is outstanding, btw. Awesome job.

  8. donviti says:

    so all the poor dumb people are being pooled together while the smart people find ways to create their own little sheltered community, test themselves into it and don’t have to deal with “them” anymore.

    It’s why I moved to N. Wilmington. And why for a while I sent my kids to private school. But, now that private schools are only for those people making $100k plus a year, lawmakers and School Districts have found ways to replace those catholic schools that shut down, all on the public dime.

  9. pandora says:

    Couldn’t have done it without you, Brian!

    I wrote about RCCD’s city district/charter message in 2012. Interesting reading.

    Mediawatch, excellent ideas! Here’s the problem – and I know you know this. In order to get this far RCCD made sure a certain part of its population got everything they wanted and more. No matter how you slice it, giving more money to high poverty schools will impact those stunningly low income schools. There will be an explosion of epic proportion. That doesn’t mean I don’t agree with you – I do. I love your idea

    WEIC should probably buckle up. There’s an explosion brewing over the plan for RCCD to take Christina’s city population. And what WEIC needs to pay attention to is not letting RCCD do what it always does – convert city elementary schools into high poverty middle schools and then deciding which of their public high schools they won’t convert into a magnet, thus creating a high poverty high school. See how that works?

  10. mediawatch says:

    I agree with you about the imminent explosion in Red Clay. You know more than I do about the district’s internal machinations, but sending city elementary kids to the burbs won’t fly. City parents will see it as busing 2.0; suburbanites won’t want increased PLI in their neighborhood schools. And we’re not even talking about possible redistribution of local tax dollars yet.
    Any plan that triggers a significant redistribution of local funding will set off a firestorm in suburbia, and there aren’t enough local dollars to reallocate to make any significant difference. Hence the need for financial reform at the state level, and structured in a way that there are benefits to high PLI areas in Kent and Sussex. Without that change (and, as I noted earlier, the state’s financial straits make adoption questionable), there’s no way redistricting or classroom-level reforms will have any more than token impact.

  11. pandora says:

    Sad, but true, MW.

  12. alsonewarkmom says:

    This is a fantastic comparison. Shows very clearly that there is no secret sauce anywhere. Brandywine might look a bit better simply because they have less poverty. But when you compare actual poverty levels, school to school, they don’t do any better than Christina or RCCD. Thanks for the point about Christina. Many people (here in Christina) seem to think that Wilmington is the source of all of our children in poverty. We are a very high poverty district even without the city schools. I hope that the WEIC looks at service to children in poverty across the state, not just in Wilmington.

  13. pandora says:

    Agreed, alsonewarkmom, BSD is smaller and has less poverty. I still think that the lack of charters, bucking the NSA and controlled Choice play into BSD’s overall community happiness. You just don’t hear a call for Charters or NSA in this district. (Yeah, yeah. There’s always a few.)

    Agree again. Many Christina residents are in for a huge surprise when/if they lose the city.

  14. Brian says:

    In its first few town hall meetings WEIC has made specific mention of PLI being a problem in all three counties, they do not seem focused entirely on Wilmington from that perspective. From what I can interpret so far, any funding model changes would be applicable to all districts. Hard to tell for sure yet, it is way too early.

    Christina’s struggles won’t go away with the loss of our Wilmington students and schools though. We will lose a significant portion of our tax base however. It remains to be seen how that will pair with the loss of our students and buildings in the city.

  15. mediawatch says:

    Taxwise, biggest loss for Christina would be the office buildings and high-end residential on the Riverfront, plus some of downtown. However, from a historic perspective, all those office buildings near Rodney Square never generated sufficient revenue to provide adequate services for high-needs students, either in the pre-deseg Wilmington Public Schools era or since the division into four districts. I would not be surprised to find that an all-suburban Christina district would have to raise tax rates in order to maintain its current level of services.
    The PLI issue will have to be addressed on a statewide basis because there is no way in hell that legislators from Kent and Sussex would provide the votes needed for additional school funding in the Wilmington area without any benefit to their own communities.

  16. pandora says:

    And don’t forget, the huge BofA buidling near Rodney Square is now the megacharter.

  17. Eileen Reynolds says:

    While multiple factors are certainly at play with regards to the relationship of poverty, the effect of exposure to quality early language models is paramount. The study that spurred the National 30 million word campaign found huge differences in the number of words spoken in natural dialogue to children in lower socio economic areas- an average of a 30 million word difference. Want a higher achieving group of kids in our school? Promote early conversations, back and forth about everything! Not just directive language, but fully interactive and language and concept expanding interactions. It starts at home! http://literacy.rice.edu/thirty-million-word-gap

  18. puck says:

    “It starts at home! ”

    And when it doesn’t, we all support fully funding high-quality day care, right?

  19. kavips says:

    First thank you to those who did the work. Been there, done that. Know what you went through.

    Second. Brandywine and Christina. compare and contrast… No charters… If you took all those charters and reinserted those children back into Christina, Christina would not now be having low scores..

    Brandywine’s scores show what happens when you don’t have charters to skim the top.. Even your poorest schools still have good students pulling up the averages. In Christina, you purposely put charters there to compete, and by skimming which everyone can now see goes on by the graphs, you leave the lower scores to carry the district…. higher scores go to boost the charter’s.

    Which is why, all of us say Christina should not be punished for low scores… If you want to figure out whether Christina is good or bad… close all charters, put those students back in Christina’s schools, which are some of the most dedicated schools in the state, mind you if you discount this playing up of scores’ importance… One example of slippage.. Newark High lost 200 students this fall both to Newark Charter’s High School or home schooling due to the Smarter Balanced Assessment… (Seriously, if you taught at the university, your child being taught at home to avoid the Smarter Balanced Assessment is well worth any expense…Because you know the shit the Smarter Balance is made of). Obviously all those leaving are top income; the income disadvantaged can not do that, which drags scores of such public schools even further down…

    Charters need to go.. And the best way is to starve them of property tax funding… John, Kim, Bryan, Paul, Sean, need to get a bill up now so all can rally around it, that stops property tax per pupil funding for any charter school and makes that charter school receive money by a line item in state budget. If the school succeeds, more power to it… But the top one percent will need to contribute more to the general fund to allow charters to continue,… And if that is done, then charters stop becoming an issue because there will be resources (the return of property taxes ($20 million in Christina) available to public schools to meet their challenges.

  20. Brian says:

    kavips, part of your last sentence caught my attention: “And if that is done, then charters stop becoming an issue because there will be resources (the return of property taxes ($20 million in Christina) available to public schools to meet their challenges.”

    $20 million is also roughly the amount of property tax revenue that Christina stands to lose if/when they are removed from the city.

  21. pandora says:

    That’s a lot of money to lose.

  22. Geezer says:

    ” If you took all those charters and reinserted those children back into Christina, Christina would not now be having low scores..”

    Prove it. Do the math.

  23. Mikem2784 says:

    Still waiting for a list of high schools across the state compared with poverty levels. I think it would be a worthwhile cross district comparison.

  24. pandora says:

    We are working on an across the state graph. We have one but it’s sooooo big and hard to read. Give us a little time! I hope to post on this in a few days.

    Exceptional Delaware has a post up on the Capital SD.

  25. liberalgeek says:

    This is my first run at a high school graph. It is probably pretty incomplete, but you should get the picture.

  26. mediawatch says:

    Pandora, LG, and everyone else,
    You know I think you’re doing a great job laying out the pattern of inverse relationships between PLI and the SBAC scores, but, after looking at the high school chart, I’ve got one suggestion for making the pattern even more evident.
    Right now, the schools on the chart do not appear to be arranged in any particular pattern.
    However, if you aligned them, left to right, from highest PLI to lowest (or from lowest to highest), I think the relationship would be easier for all of us to see.
    I appreciate all you’re doing here.

  27. liberalgeek says:

    Mediawatch, old chap. That is a grand idea. In fact, if you take a look at the gray bar in the graph (PLI) you’ll see that it does indeed rise from left to right.

  28. puck says:

    In the earlier graphs PLI is blue and on the left. I was thrown off momentarily until I re-checked the legend.

  29. liberalgeek says:

    Yeah, that’ll teach me to take requests and not take my time. I suspect the color coordination will be better and more standardized in the future posts.

    There is talk about crowd-sourcing this data as well, so people may, in the near future, be able to slice, dice and graph as they see fit.

  30. puck says:

    I think these charts will become iconic in Delaware education debates (and probably already are). Literally iconic – I can look at a thumbnail and get the point. It is probably a good idea to standardize the scaling and colors and archive the charts online as the canonical versions before turning the data loose.

  31. Geezer says:

    If these well-constructed, easy-to-understand graphs make people realize what they show — that the closest relationship to test scores is family income — then huzzah. Unfortunately, this truth has been known for decades, and we haven’t done jack shit about it so far.

    @MW: I am hoping that Red Clay’s willingness to take on the entire city’s student load signals a coming change in the per-pupil funding formula, because I see no reason why Red Clay would agree to this otherwise.

  32. mediawatch says:

    I don’t think any of us can be certain as to how this will play out legislatively but, given heavy Red Clay representation on WEIC, I don’t see how that group will be able to recommend a plan that would screw RC. The more significant question is how WEIC will be able to thread the needle to develop a plan that includes redistricting and a financing formula that increases funding in an equitable fashion that will somehow win the approval of the General Assembly in an election year when a state budget deficit already looms large.
    If they can do that, I’ll be supporting Tony Allen for governor.

  33. I just put up a Sussex County one, focusing on their middle schools and the massive effect just ONE charter can have on most of the county: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/09/12/poverty-matters-smarter-balanced-impact-the-sussex-academy-effect/

  34. just one says:

    We are looking above at the averages per school for test and PLI. And of course if you redistribute the students with the higher scores from the Charters to the other schools the averages will go up.
    But how does help the students with the high PLI and low test scores? Isnt that what we are trying to do?
    Also I would like to see how each school shows improvement on the scores while the students are there?

  35. puck says:

    Look at your question through the other end of your telescope: If you move the honors students out of the traditional school and into charters, how does that help them? They are already honors students, remember?

    The other answer is that once you decrease the population of honors students, the school loses honors-level classes and programs in a spiral of decline.

    Charters should be abolished as separate buildings and reconstituted as honors programs within traditional schools, where any student who is able to do the work can transfer down the hall instead of across town, no lotteries needed.

  36. Just one says:

    Maybe the honor students can even improve even more as individuals. And wouldn’t it allow other kids who would be shut out of honor programs the ability to enter honor programs.
    How are going to eliminate poverty that? How can you provide after school programs to help the kids learn? How can we provide education for the parents of these kids?
    why do you want to punish the kids that do well?
    and charters use less resources than other schools

  37. pandora says:

    Just one, there’s only one pot of money. So, if charters cater to the honors/AP/IB kids then public schools will not only lose many of those “smart” kids they will lose the honors/AP/IB classes. This does not create more room in these programs. That is not how this works.

    Why are you trying to “punish” public school kids that do well by removing advanced programs from their public schools? Actually, I don’t think you want to punish any kids. What I think is that you do not understand things like education funding, teaching units, etc..

  38. Just one says:

    The focus should be on the kids that score low on the test, which per the graphs above, are the low income kids. How will you improve education within the city of Wilmington and for these kids?
    I haven’t heard one suggestion besides eliminate charters of which some are the best scoring school.

  39. pandora says:

    Have you really not heard one suggestion for improving these schools?

    I wrote this paragraph about Priority Schools almost a year ago (I, and others, have been saying exactly this for well over 10 years):

    What’s infuriating is that we begin these discussions pretending we’ve actually tried to help these schools. We haven’t, and the State and Districts are both guilty of this. It isn’t as if the State and District are saying, “Hey, we tried smaller class sizes, putting more teachers in the schools, implemented equitable funding, added resources like wellness centers, school psychologists and put back programs such as TAG, Technology, Reading/Math specialists, Arts, etc. and these schools are still struggling so now we need to try something different.” They can’t say that because they never did that.

    And this isn’t only a city of Wilmington issue. It’s statewide.

  40. justone, the overall problem here is “the tests”. The focus has become “the tests”, not the children who take them. In our quest for the ultimate accountability and proficiency, we have lost track of the individual needs of these children. The highest-scoring schools have very little low-income barriers, as well as smaller populations of other sub-groups. The opposite is true with high populations in the “neediest” schools. I watched in abject horror as the Director of Accountability at the DOE told the State Board of Education yesterday how she is pushing the most aggressive accountability plan in the country, and this isn’t something she is “comfortable backing down from”. And it’s ALL based on this test! This is insanity. It is crazy. Should Delaware students be the sacrificial lamb for one woman’s attempt to make a name for herself by pushing Delaware students WAY past the bar? And the State Board of Education President had to be reminded what counts as proficiency on this test…

  41. Dorian Gray says:

    I have a solution that nobody will like. It’s warranted and would address the very neediest, but good luck convincing anybody…

    Start paying reparations in the form of schools. The idea that how good a public school is is based on where your parents/guardians live is one of the biggest examples of institutional racism I can think of (beside mass incarceration, maybe).

    What other public services work this way? Can you imagine if people moved to ensure their post office was the very best rated post office in the area!

    Fuck charters… fuck moving to Chadds Ford… I think the people in Chadds Ford should subsidize the Chester Upland schools. How do you like that?

    Look, I don’t ever comment on these education posts because I don’t have children and it doesn’t directly impact me. But the idea that people cry “property values” is disgusting and racist… Listen to the two part This American Life from last month (The Problem We All Live With)..

    I say this as a middle-aged white guy of relatively considerable means.

    You’ll be nibbling around the edges forever wondering how to fix all this when the answer is there. It’s just too bitter to gulp down the gullet. Part of the reparations package should be a reallocation of public funds to low-income black neighbourhoods. I’d start by taking money from Hockessin, Monchanin and Middletown and building brand new, state-of-the art public schools (not charter, not private, not wait-list)… public schools in the most forgotten neighbourhoods. Maybe to start I’d build one in Hilltop and name it after Jim Gilliam. James Gilliam Middle School has a nice ring to it.

    And if people tried the old white flight routine again I hit them with a Reparations transfer tax on the property sale. We all live in this fucking country. We should start taking some god damn responsibility.

    The real problem is people see a problem but if you’re rich enough it’s other people’s problem and if your black and poor you’re totally fucked anyway. We need to make it a rich person’s problem. How long are we going to victimise people until we just admit what we’ve done and correct it?

  42. Geezer says:

    Justone is a good example of where the public is on this issue — a couple of levels below where education activists are.

    Realize this: Tests that reflect economic status are generally comforting to those not in poverty. It’s not just the education establishment that has something to lose by pointing out the emperor’s wardrobe.

  43. Geezer says:

    ” the idea that people cry “property values” is disgusting and racist”

    An enormous portion of the populace has no investment to speak of outside of its homes. So while it might be disgusting and racist, it’s also perfectly understandable.

  44. Dorian Gray says:

    Yes, I understand it perfectly. It’s a fair point. That’s why schools should have never been tied to property values. Every school should be as identical as we could possibly make them… Instead we argue about opting out of tests.

    I also understand why all those people you mention have no wealth built up at all. What the people with a nice nest-egg in their homes seem to fail to comprehend is how and why those other people don’t have what they have.

    Do we want to try to give those other people the opportunity to get it or just build a moat round ours?

  45. pandora says:

    Exactly, Dorian. If property values matter then let’s make everyone’s property values matter. Many people who (understandably) are concerned about their property values have zero concern for other people’s property values.

    It’s not a way to build a strong public school system – and a lot of those concerned property owners become really concerned once their kids graduate from their moat-surrounded elementary schools and enter middle and high school. There are only so many seats available at those private/public charters and magnets.

    And I agree, schools should not be tied to property values. It immediately sets the stage for an us vs them scenario – creating winners and losers. Right now we’re allowing moat building.

  46. just one says:

    Funding- if you don’t tie it to property values, how will you receive the funding? an income tax? And you will have the same disparate funding mechanism?

    Low income students- why don’t you ask what has worked in other states and low income areas? Is there a correlation between the dollars spent per student and the achievement? The City of Camden in NJ spends almost $23k per student and still the students are failing ‘the test’.

    Successes- why not ask individuals who have succeeded in low income schools and ask them how they did it? The individuals that I spoke to said that it was because someone cared about their school work, was able to assist them with their homework. Its hard when a child is in a low income household, with most likely a single parent or living with their grandparents to get that sort of guidance.

    Charters- they typically operate on less money per student than the other schools. Why not take what works in these school and migrate the teaching methods into the other schools. Also should we not evaluate the students on their improvement during the years that they are in the schools. Do kids from Charter improve less, the same or more than children in other Red Clay Honor programs?

  47. pandora says:

    Schools with less (to almost none) lower income/special ed students perform better. That’s the secret sauce of “successful” charter schools, magnets and NSA suburban elementary schools. Look at the above charts (especially RCCD and charters). If charters had the key to improving the test scores of low income children then that chart would look very different, no?

  48. Brian says:

    just one, on the funding- you leave local funding tied to assessed property value (and implement a rolling reassessment plan) but modify distribution from the state’s side towards a needs-based model. Students with higher levels of educational need = additional funding from the State.

    Charters typically spend less money per student because, typically, they enroll fewer students with higher needs which translates to less funding per student. From the district’s side, they send the same amount of money along with a charter student as they do with an in-district student.

  49. Geezer says:

    “Many people who (understandably) are concerned about their property values have zero concern for other people’s property values.”

    A noble sentiment, but the point is that poor people don’t have any taxable property.

  50. Geezer says:

    Justone: Many of your claims are not factual. Charters don’t operate on less money; they are funded per student, exactly the same as other schools.

  51. liberalgeek says:

    I think justone is referring to the fact that not all of the per-student money follows the student. 70% maybe?

  52. Brian says:

    Per student funding in charters and districts is the same. If the student is in-district, he/she would get X dollars. If they move to charter, he/she would still get X dollars from their resident district. No change.

  53. Geezer says:

    What portion of per-student money doesn’t follow the student? That’s the reason for the big budget shortfalls in Christina — the district must give up LOCAL per-student funds to the charter that student attends.

  54. Brian says:

    Geezer, that’s not quite correct. There is no difference in per student funding between charter and district. Charter students are public school students in the sense that per student funding is calculated EXACTLY the same way it would be if they were in a district school.

  55. just one says:

    Christina School district pays $20,146,672 to the charter schools that receive Christina Students. There are 4019 children from Christina that attend charters. That’s roughly $5000 per student. Clearly less than the states average of $15k per student (per the US Census). Their budget is $255m. It looks like they have 15,668 students for FY 14
    So how does charters starve the school districts of money?
    And thus charters operate on less funding per student. I understand some may need less resources, but that should leave more money for the districts students. Right?
    So why not have the State provide more money to the children that attend the schools with the higher level of poverty? Its a state issue.
    And to help the students that are from a high poverty school, why aren’t they raised in a dual parent home?

  56. pandora says:

    First, Christina pays an average of 13,586 per student. The state average for public schools is $12,901 and for charter school’s it’s $11,521. Those are “averages” and that word matters, but let me pull a Mike Matthews comment from years ago to explain why:

    “Let me just put this out there: I’m tired of people using per-pupil spending averages to make some larger “public schools spend too much money argument.” Does anyone realize these are AVERAGES? And does anyone realize that a school like NCS, perhaps, has a smaller AVERAGE because their AVERAGE child requires far fewer services than the AVERAGE child at a regular public school?

    Do these people also realize that some of those AVERAGE public school children include students with exceptionally high needs, thereby increasing — sometimes dramatically — the per-pupil AVERAGE at certain schools? In the learning center in our District, we have many students who require one-on-one paras, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and a host of other related services. These services, you know, cost MONEY, thereby increasing the AVERAGE. Wow. What a concept!

    Stop playing with these numbers if you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    What is NCS’s special education rate? How many of their students can’t walk without assistance? How many of them have speech therapy. Answer that, then throw your silly numbers at me.

    Amen, Mike.

  57. As well, that is just the local funding. Based on the September 30th counts, the schools receive the state funding. If a student goes from a traditional school to a charter, that funding is expected to follow the student: local and state. But the opposite occurs for charters. They get to keep it. How is that, in any way shape or form fair in any way? As well, traditional schools don’t get $100,000-$1,000,000 grants from places like the Longwood Foundation just because they are a charter. So let’s stop talking about the poor charters. And everything Mike said is true in many cases. Even with special education populations, most of the charters populations are not the intensive special needs populations that require more funding and services.

  58. Brian says:

    Kevin, everything you said is spot on except for one thing, Charters don’t keep per student funding if the student returns to a district school. The money goes back to the District with the student. There is one area of funding where charters DO keep money allocated to them by the state no matter what: Transportation funding.

    Just one: Pandora hit it on the head. An analogy:

    A small school district opens with 100 students. Each student gets funded $100. $60 from the State, $40 from the District residents through property tax. The District has $10,000 in total revenue. It costs $8,000 to operate the school district (teachers, energy, transportation, supplies, everything) leaving $2,000 as a carry forward to the following year.

    A charter school opens and 5 children migrate from the District to the charter, and $500 in funding follows them. Assuming the cost to run the District stayed the same (which doesn’t happen, typically costs go up ~2%/year) The District now has $9,500 to operate with, still paying teachers, still paying for building operations and all other costs.

    Say next year 5 more children migrate to the Charter. Another $500. Now the District has $9,000 to operate on. Continue that trend and consider that costs *will* rise every year no matter what and it quickly gets to be a major issue for the District, ending up with the District having to dip into the carry forward from each year until there is no carry forward, and eventually there is no reserve left. Which is when you start to hear the word “referendum” in Delaware.

    As to the comment that Christina only spends $5,000 on a student in Charter, absolutely incorrect. The District average is $13,000 per student (which is a combination of State, Local, and Federal funds), as Pandora noted. For each student that leaves the District and enrolls in a charter, $13,000 goes with them. Same deal if the student choices out to another public school district school. Districts don’t keep any per student funding when a student leaves for a charter.

  59. Actually Brian, embedded in state code, Delaware charters are not legally obligated to return that funding after September 30th. Kim Williams put House Bill #28 up in January and the House Education Committee never heard it since the bill was introduced on 1/22/15. This is the synopsis of Kim’s bill:

    Absent an agreement with the school district, charter schools are currently able to retain any funding received for the fiscal year for a student who transfers mid-year from the charter school to a school district. This bill mandates that, if a student transfers from a charter school to a school district after September 30th, such funds will be prorated between the charter school and the school district where the student is then enrolled.

    • Brian says:

      Ah ha. I did not see the detail about transferring back mid-year. I assumed and/or misread it being the following school year. Then yes, you are spot on. Thanks for correcting me!

  60. Jack Wells says:

    I would like the per student cost to be published for every operating unit showing at least the account code, program code, and funding category. Are we spending more per student in 9-12 than K-5 or 6-8?

    I would also like to see a class size report by subject by class for our schools. Are class sizes for schools eligible to receive state special funds, federal Title I funds and IDEA funds class sizes smaller than schools who are not entitled to these funds. If so. Why?