At least someone in the current Administration has some guts. Secretary Lowery, who has gotten minimal support from her boss on making substantive changes to the State’s education policy, has finally said that enough is enough. In this morning’s News Journal, Nichole Dobo reports that the Christina School District under pressure from the teacher’s union voted to refuse to follow the State’s RTTT plan. The RTTT plan requires that:
Schools that are part of the Partnership Zone are required to write a local plan — and secure union approval for the methods of implementing that plan. Each teacher in Partnership Zone schools was required to re-interview for his or her job. State and district administrators say that is to ensure that teachers are on board with reform programs that are going to be implemented. Teachers who choose not to interview — and those who are not successful candidates — are guaranteed jobs elsewhere in the district. They were not fired, and they lost no pay, benefits or seniority. The Christina School Board, the administration and local union members signed on to their plans.
But when it came time to implement, the union did what it has done with every reform effort in Delaware… It bailed out. Why? Because
teachers … said they were not given the exact interview questions ahead of time.
That’s correct, since the union-protected teachers weren’t given the tests answers before the test, they complained. The union’s response?
No union leaders spoke at the meeting, nor did any make themselves available for comment for this story.
But, the union knew the process from the beginning and just chose to sandbag it when it was time to implement…
Emails released by the state Department of Education show that at least some union members knew in January how the process would unfold.
“IF you are chosen, you will sign a letter of commitment by Mar. 31,” Christina Education Association President Claudia Bock’s Jan. 5 email to fellow local union leaders reads. “If you are NOT chosen, you will be able to be part of the transfer process.”
A draft agreement with the union, as released to The News Journal by the state Department of Education, shows that union suggestions sent to the department Dec. 22 did not include changes that would have addressed issues raised Tuesday by the school board and some teachers.
So, why does Dr. Lowery have guts? The State Department of Education just released the following press release…
For Immediate Release
Contact: Lisa Bishop, Delaware Department of Education (302) 943-0080
STATE TO FREEZE CHRISTINA SCHOOL DISTRICT’S RACE TO THE TOP DOLLARS
Secretary of Education Lillian M. Lowery announced today that the Delaware Department of Education will freeze more than $11 million in federal Race to the Top (RTTT) dollars previously dedicated to the Christina School District. This action follows the Christina School Board’s vote Tuesday not to honor its agreement to implement its own previously approved reform plan at two of Delaware’s lowest-performing schools.
In addition to the more than $11 million in reform dollars, the district will also lose out on programs paid for with the state’s portion of RTTT funding. The Department also is reviewing what other fiscal and regulatory impacts could result from Christina’s actions.
“Over the last three years, the average math and English Language Arts proficiency for students at Stubbs Elementary School has declined from 54.65% in 2008 to only 40.42% in 2010. Similarly, at Glasgow High School, the math and English Language Arts average proficiency declined from 41.28% in 2008 to 35.59% in 2010.” Lowery said. “We have a moral obligation to these children to do better for them, and the school board’s recent action retreats from that obligation.”
“We hope Christina’s leadership will come back to the table and return to the work they pledged to complete,” Lowery said. “The children in these struggling schools are counting on them to do so.”
Because of the long-term failure of both schools to meet the needs of Delaware’s students, reform is needed.
In September, the state selected Christina’s Glasgow High and Stubbs Elementary schools as two of the first four schools in the state’s new Partnership Zone. Six more schools will be named this summer. As a key component of Delaware’s $119 Race to the Top plan, the Partnership Zone targets the state’s lowest performing schools with additional financial resources and technical assistance to implement aggressive reforms. Each school’s leadership chose a reform method and locally drafted a plan. Secretary Lowery approved those local plans in January.
Christina chose the transformation model for both of its schools. Among other important changes — including shifts in curricula, the addition of content-specific academies, extended instructional hours and intense intervention models – the plan developed by the district calls for school leadership and staff to re-interview for positions. Those not invited back would be moved to a position in another building that better complemented their talents. No teacher would lose any salary, benefits or seniority.
Christina, with the support of its teacher union, created a process for that selection that included a review panel dominated by teacher and local administrative representation. The district followed the process with fidelity, but on Tuesday, the school board voted not to accept the results of that process and to return teachers to their original classrooms.
“The staffing process in dispute was outlined in an agreement that Christina’s leadership crafted, signed off on, and was charged with implementing,” Lowery said. “After implementing the process they agreed to, the Christina School Board now wants to change those rules. That’s not fair to anyone, particularly the students who could lose out.”
“The Christina School District developed its reform plan and sought federal/state financial assistance to make the plan a reality. The Christina School Board now seeks to back away from the very plan that resulted in the awarding of these funds.”
Lowery said she understands that real reform is going to bring push back.
“Change is hard, but it’s the only way to get different results,” she said. “Our children can’t afford for us to stick with the status quo because it’s easier or more comfortable. They deserve better, and as leaders, it’s our job to give them better.”
NOTE: Members of the media interested in speaking with Secretary Lowery should contact Lisa Bishop at (302) 943-0080.
Actions have consequences.
Something that has been lacking in this administration in DelDot, with Senator DeLuca’s Department of Labor job, with the Weatherization program, and on…
Kudos to Education Secretary Lillian Lowery.