as were many public educators around the nation -- by the first
set of accountability ratings called for under the No Child Left
Behind Act published in August, the district rushed out an extra
edition of its direct-mail newsletter explaining why it regarded
the widely publicized ratings to be unfair. It then followed up
with the formation of a 24-member taskfroce to devise a menu of
Superintendent Bruce Harter presented the school board with a
list of six categories of data "to keep in front of the district
and the community." In a demonstration Power Point presentation,
he said they combine to provide "dashboard metrics" that are
easily understood and similar to the way a driver receives
information from automobile instruments.
matters before the board at its session on Nov. 17, it:
itself a waiver from the state law capping class size in primary
grades at 22 pupils.
Approved allowing Maple Lane Elementary to become the first
school in northern Delaware to operate on something close to a
Accepted a 'strategic plan' for the district's program for
academically gifted students.
Extended the pending International Baccalaureate program to
include Harlan Intermediate.
Introduced seven new principals, including one officially hired
just 10 minutes before the presentation.
told the board that the measures the taskforce recommended are
aligned with the district's long-range improvement plan. For the
most part, data required for the presentation is already being
generated to gauge progress in accomplishing the plan's stated
them in a way that "helps people make sense" of the data will
"accurately reflect the quality of the district," his report
other hand, the No Child Left Behind evaluation is based
entirely on results from the annual state assessment tests with
those statistics grouped into several categories. A school which
fails to show year-to-year improvement in all the categories
receives an unfavorable rating. As Delaforum previously
reported, only four of Brandywine's 17 schools received a
district's staff "raised questions about whether the community
would be satisfied with such a narrow definition of the success
of the Brandywine district and schools," Harter said.
U.S. and state Departments of Education will in all likelihood
continue to publish test results, Brandywine intends to
supplement that with additional statistics which:
year-to-year progress students are making toward meeting or
exceeding academic standards by the time they reach 10th grade.
Evaluate newly-hired teachers in terms of the academic
credentials they bring with them. A separate report presented at
the board meeting showed that 37 of the 70 new teachers that
Brandywine hired for this academic year have degrees or credits
beyond their bachelor's degree and 32 have more than three years
of teaching experience.
the number of students voluntarily participating in arts and
how many high school students move up from traditional programs
to courses which qualify for advanced college placement and
increases in the number of students who are considered prepared
for post-secondary education.
the performance of students classified as members of racial and
ethnic minority groups as a way to determine progress toward
closing the so-called 'achievement gap'.
from year-to-year and school-to-school the percentage of
students involved in serious discipline incidents.
asking the board to grant the class-size waiver, financial
officer David Blowman, who formerly was a ranking DelDOE
administrator, said the General Assembly imposed the limit while
knowing full well that it could not be achieved at the present
level of state financing.
waiver provision in the law "was put there for a reason." he
said. "We simply do not have the state or local resources to
meet the cap. It's not do-able."
"Districts have no choice but to waive each year," he added.
Brandywine nevertheless has made some progress toward reaching
the 22-pupil goal in its 137 kindergarten-through-third-grade
classrooms. The number exceeding that limit this year is 39,
down from 48 last year. Districtwide, the average class size in
those grades is 21 this year, compared to 21.6 in 2002-03.
told Delaforum that only Darley Road Elementary and the P.S. du
Pont kindergarten were the only schools that came in under the
cap in all their classrooms.
that state-allocated teacher positions were distributed to all
Brandywine school in a way that satisfied the law's requirement
that 98% of teacher units generated be assigned to schools that
generated them. However, a waiver from that provision was
sought, he said, because Brandywine is participating in a
special education pilot project which skewed the ratio in five
schools. The project, which he did not further explain, resulted
in the district's being authorized 20 more teaching units than
it would otherwise have.
allocates financing for one teacher for each 17.4 students. The
units, however, have to be spread to cover such positions as
counselors, librarians and instruction in physical education,
art and music which are not provided on a single-classroom
Brandywine, an internal committee assigns teachers to specific
positions. Board member Craig Gilbert suggested that might
better be done in public session so that the process would be
the board advertised a public hearing on the matter, as required
by the law, beginning at 7 p.m., it did not get around to
dealing with the issue until 10:15. It did not use a hearing
format then or earlier, but did accept comments from two people
concerned with what they charged is overcrowding at Lombardy
Elementary during the usual public-comment section near the
beginning of the meeting agenda.
previously reported, Maple Lane Elementary will begin its
academic year on Aug. 4, which is a month ahead of the
traditional time. The four weeks of 'summer vacation' thereby
lost will be recovered at other times during the year. but the
school will provide optional remedial or enrichment classes at
those times. It will have the same number of regular
instructional days as would be provided under a traditional
academically gifted program plan accepted by the board does not
get into specifics, but does call for selecting "appropriate
service-delivery options to meet the needs of students" and
implementing them on a pilot basis in the 2004-05 academic year.
Also to be determined is a method for selecting students to
participate in the program.
Elementary joins Mount Pleasant High and Talley Middle as a
participants in the International Baccalaureate program. As
previously reported, Mount Pleasant will begin a full program
next year if it is approved to do so by the Geneva,
Switzerland-based organization. Harter said a primary school
will be selected to participate next year.
principals for this year and their schools are: Lynn Sharps,
Lombardy Elementary; Vincent Costello, P.S. du Pont
Intermediate; Ron Mendenhall, Hanby Middle; Richard Gregg,
Brandywine High; Greg Robinson, Mount Pleasant High; Ginny
Burns-Ferrara, Bush Early Education Center; and Anne Humphrey,
formally ratified Humphrey's hiring just before the presentation
so that she could participate. She actually assumes the post on
Dec. 15. Retired former principal of Forwood, David Moore,
returned to serve in an interim capacity since the resignation
of Kristina DuBois on Nov. 7, the board was told.