Education Secretary says time for significant school reform is now
(Dover, DE) -- The number of top rated schools in Delaware fell sharply this year as federal standards continued to rise, and Former Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery said Friday the time for major reform of education in Delaware is now.
School accountability ratings released by the Delaware Department of Education on Friday showed the state has 20 percent fewer "Superior" schools this year and only half as many "Commendable" schools as last year. There was a concurrent rise in the number of schools under "Academic Review" and "Academic Progress."
"The clock is ticking on us," Former Secretary Lowery said. "We have to take big, giant steps toward radically improving our education system quickly enough to have this generation of students ready to compete for the next generation of jobs and opportunity. We have the opportunity to transform education in the First State. The Race to the Top program will provide the schools with the necessary resources to plan and implement aggressive reforms."
Former Secretary Lowery said Delaware students will be "the beneficiaries of this tremendous change. Race to the Top will give us the resources to help us have a great teacher in every classroom, a visionary leader in every school and a much more rigorous academic offering for every child. This opportunity is like nothing ever seen before in Delaware. It’s the most important opportunity our children have ever had for significantly better public schools."
The report released Friday shows that 66 schools have been rated Superior, 17 schools have been rated Commendable, 46 schools have been rated Academic Review, 26 schools have been rated "Academic Progress – Under Improvement" and 37 schools have been rated "Academic Watch – Under Improvement."
"Today, we congratulate our schools that made the grade or made progress toward reaching the standards. But we also sound this challenge across Delaware – it’s time to throw out the old scoreboard, throw out the old record books and say that what we now must have in public education in Delaware is not basic achievement or basic progress but absolute transformation," Former Secretary Lowery said.
As a result of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, all states are required to conduct a federally approved annual assessment of all students in grades 3-8 and one high school grade. In Delaware, the Delaware Student Testing Program (DSTP) is currently used to assess student knowledge in reading, writing, mathematics, science and social studies. Student results of each year’s DSTP assessment is then used as the primary means to determine school accountability ratings.
"About 43 percent of Delaware schools are rated as superior or commendable. This level of success would not be possible without the hard work of our teachers, our school leaders, parents and students at those schools. But we should all be very alarmed that nearly two out of every 10 Delaware public schools are on the academic watch list because they are failing to meet both the federal and state standards for progress," Former Secretary Lowery said.
Just four months ago, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan delivered the shot heard 'round the education world – the announcement that Delaware will receive about $100 million to make top-to-bottom reforms to fundamentally improve the quality of education. School districts are now working on their formal plans for reform and must submit them to the Delaware Department of Education by the end of December.
"I want to make clear that the Delaware Department of Education will make a very rigorous review of these plans coming from the school districts," Former Secretary Lowery said Friday. "Only bold plans that offer a road to dramatic improvement will be approved and funded. But those plans that offer only a detour to mediocrity will not be approved and funded.
"The whole country is looking at Delaware right now," Former Secretary Lowery said. "Now the hard work has begun – actually reinventing our public schools to help them perform markedly better than they ever have. Race to the Top is the catalyst for change. We must still do the hard work to use that catalyst to bring about reforms that are so strong and complete that public education in Delaware will barely resemble in the next generation what it looks like today."
In the state’s accountability system, a school’s rating is determined by three components: Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), which is the federal standard for progress, State Progress Determination (SPD); and the school’s accountability history. AYP is designed to measure academic performance of not only all students in a particular school but of subgroups within the school’s student population. The nine subgroups are: All Students, American Indian, Asian American, African American, Hispanic, White, Economically Disadvantaged, Students with Disabilities and Limited English Proficient. By the 2013-2014 school year, every student in every subgroup must be proficient in English/Language Arts and mathematics in order for the school to attain AYP.
In 2010, 89 schools made AYP while 103 schools did not make AYP. Additionally, eighteen schools were designated as new schools for accountability purposes and, therefore, did not receive a rating.
"It has been four months since Delaware won Race to the Top. In the coming months, our school districts must produce and deliver concrete plans for how they will radically transform their operations to both increase academic standards and put into place highly effective teachers and principals," Former Secretary Lowery said Friday. "We must take the same commitment and desire and teamwork we showed in winning Race to the Top and now quadruple that to bring about the complete restructuring of our education system. The Race to the Top competition is over; we got it. Now we have to get it: get it that the same old way of doing things in education in Delaware is no longer acceptable."
Under the current accountability system, schools are classified in one of five categories:
- Superior means that the school has met AYP, is not under improvement and has met additional state criteria.
- Commendable indicates that AYP has been met while the school is not "Under Improvement."
- Academic Review means AYP is not met for one year and SPD is met; or, AYP is not met for one year and SPD is not met; or, AYP is met and SPD is not met (second year).
- Academic Progress means AYP is not met (different subject) two or more years and SPD is met.
- Academic Watch means AYP is not met for two or more years (different subjects) and SPD is not met.
- Academic Progress – Under Improvement means AYP is not met (same subject) two or more years and SPD is met.
- Academic Watch – Under Improvement means AYP is not met two or more years (same subject) and SPD is not met.
Consequences for schools rated Under Improvement differ depending on whether the school is a Title I school (receiving federal funding for low income students) or a non-Title I school and the number of years a school has been rated Under Improvement.
Title I School:
- 1 year = School implements choice options.
- 2 years = School offers choice options and provides supplemental services.
- 3 years = Same as year 2 plus school is subject to corrective action.
- 4 years = Same as year 3 plus school develops a plan for restructuring.
- 5 years = Same as year 2 plus school implements the restructuring plan – select one or more NCLB restructuring options.
Non-Title I School:
- 1 year = Review and modify School Improvement Plan.
- 2 years = Same as year 1; provide additional prioritized extra-time services for subgroups that did not meet target.
- 3 years = Same as year 2; school subject to corrective action.
- 4 years = Same as year 3 plus school develops plan for restructuring.
- 5 years = Same as year 2 plus school implements restructuring plan.
Online school profiles are now available for viewing on DOE’s website. The profiles will identify each school’s accountability rating as well as show what targets were and were not met. Parents can also look at school profiles to view student achievement data, staff information and a school’s demographics. The profiles will also provide a reader with school climate information, staff data and program information. It is a powerful tool that parents can use to get a better understanding of their children’s academic environment.
To view school profiles, go to: www.doe.k12.de.us
School district accountability ratings will be released in the fall.
Delaware Department of Education
401 Federal Street, Suite #2
Dover, Delaware 19901
Phone: (302) 735-4035
Fax: (302) 739-4654
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