CRI made sure to be in attendance of a Vision 2025 meeting, sponsored by the Rodel Foundation, in Georgetown on Wednesday the 25th. Here were the highlights of the presentation:
a) The presenter was Kurt Landgraf, husband of DHSS Secretary Rita.
b) The presentation had many common lovely sounding buzzwords: improving education by “empowering parents, students, and teachers”, “innovation, “student-centered learning/focus on the student”, “More access to quality learning opportunities” “technology in classrooms”, “self and socially aware” “excellence, equity, efficiency in learning “ “high standards” and so forth.
c) One woman in attendance said she didn’t want localized control of education because some districts might suffer from nepotism at the local level whereas she believes this would not be a problem at the state or federal level. She also tried to argue that charter schools were not public schools though she was politely reminded that yes, charter schools ARE private schools only without the same (over) regulation and funding allotment traditional public schools receive.
d) The audience attendees became angry with one former education when he pointed out that USA is #1 in total K-12 spending per pupil, but whose results were not #1. They either really believe, or tell themselves, that we have an underfunding of public schools problem in America. Evidence of generous spending on education funds (much of that money which never makes it to the classroom) can be read HERE and HERE and we will write more about this in the future. The problem is not even so much how much money is spent, but on where the money goes. As stated above, a large amount of money ends up paying generous salaries to non-educators, including those who come up with ideas like Common Core.
For the record Delaware spends $12,000-$13,000 average per public school pupil (minus capital/miscellaneous expenses, which brings the total to about $17,000)
e) A question on Education Savings Accounts was asked. Would ESA’s be part of the new education plan? the question was not answered though the usual criticism of private/charter schools were abound: they are more selective because traditional public schools must take everyone (fact: 20% of Prestige Academy in Wilmington students are special-needs/IEP students, and 30% of Tall Oaks students come from single parent/low income backgrounds and about 40% of their students are not White) . A study by Dr. Bart Danielsen of Delaware’s child enrollment in public schools showed a massive gap between children 0-4 in Delaware and 5-9, many of whom were located in places like Chadds Ford, PA (sources used: US Census Bureau and IRS tax data). Meaning, many parents were taking their children 5 and up to places like PA where the public schools are perceived to be of higher quality. Not a solid answer from the presenter(s) as to why this was, though a lack of funding for public education in Delaware was a popular culprit, as was a lack of focus on letting teachers teach, too many administrators, a need for more parental involvement in both their children’s education and in the education process (a statement the Rodel Foundation and presenter Kurt Landgraf agreed with, as does CRI), a lack of access to Pre-k programs like Headstart (Mr. Landgraf said a study showed that students who attended Pre-k (a.k.a ‘early childhood education’) were better prepared for kindergarten. As an example he said Princeton, NJ tots got Pre-k while Trenton’s kids did not. Princeton kids had an average vocab by Kindergarten of 5000 words while Trenton’s kids had 800-1000. Source not cited. A retired educator disputed this stat later by saying that for some students Pre-k works but for others they are better off staying at home), a streamlined process between educators, administrators in the schools, and administrators outside the school (like the state DOE). CRI agrees with some of the ideas, such as more parental involvement in the education process, reducing the number of total administrators and non education “support staff”, particularly those NOT in the schools themselves, and letting teachers innovate in the classroom.
The Rodel Foundation says they favor individualized and tailored learning programs for each student to meet his or her needs. CRI agrees with this, but the question as to whether or not the Rodel Foundation supports Common Core, which is a one size fits all model allowing for no innovation that doesn’t meet arbitrary “national” guidelines were not answered or asked. There is no doubt that allowing students, parents, educators, on on-site administrators like principals to best manage the education process, come up with curriculum tailored to what the students need, and working with each child to maximize their potential is critical. For example, a student who ought not to go to college should not go. According to Mr. Landgraf, 45% of college enrollees do not finish within SIX years. Vocational classes which prepare those students who just are not college material but can help them find a decent job after high school ought to be offered. Helping struggling students who are behind and allowing gifted students to excel, at their own paces, should be promoted in the schools.
f) A Californian judge’s ruling on teacher tenure was not mention, but our retired educator and former superintendent friend mentioned that some teachers are bad teachers who hurt kids and should not have tenure/should be fired, a position Mr. Landgraf agreed with publicly and Rodel Foundations seemed to agree with. Simply put, teaching tenure was created for college professors to protect them from being fired for their research or their speech. It was NOT intended for K-12 teachers to earn a lifetime job simply for showing up for sometimes as little as 2 years without getting fired or failing some performance reviews. Guaranteed jobs for all teachers, even those who are not teaching well or in extreme cases are convicted of felonies and/or crimes against students, is one of the main objections education reformers have with the teacher’s union and the education system.
The theme of the presentation was, “We want your input.” Will this prove to be true? Or was the meeting a dog and pony show to make people think they are a part of the process while the real decisions are made behind closed doors? The big Rodel Vision 2025 conference will be on October 29 at the UD Campus in Newark. Details TBA.