Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I support the Academy of Dover’s charter renewal. Unlike the ridiculous sound off in Monday’s paper, which blamed the school for 4 children in special education, my children have done well. Of course my wife and I always educate our children from their earliest days, but they have been enhanced at the AOD.

My daughter had to have alternative schooling arrangements this year and tested 1 to 2 grade levels higher than her age. The point is that she was not harmed. Many other children have also done well. The proof is in the objective evaluations of the accrediting authority. Unlike those with a political vendetta, the out of state professionals made it one of the few charter schools in the state to be honored with accreditation.

Every parent knows where there children start and finish the school year because the school tests each child using the Iowa standardized tests (recognized as a national standard). The purpose is to see if the child is making progress during the school year. The teachers are held accountable for the aggregate advancement of the class. This accountability led to the replacement of a few teachers and much of the political vendetta and smearing of the school. Merit pay and teacher accountability are feared by the education establishment and quite frankly some will do and say anything to stop it.

Another problem with the school is that it is getting positive results. Let me repeat. A big problem with the school is that it is getting results with minority children. This school has eliminated the achievement gap in state testing with minority children. The school has one of the highest free lunch rates in the state, but it is well disciplined and meeting the same testing standards as the regular public school. (No, that is not the whole of the schools population, but it should be proud that well over 40% participate and it has no bearing on the quality of the students.) This is an embarrassment to educational establishment because it begs a question, what are they doing wrong?

Another problem is family involvement. Problem, yes well you see the problem with education is the detached parent the establishment tells us. Parents don’t care. At AOD parents are regarded as more than a fundraiser; they are partners. The result is they are involved. You think the school gets credit for

This little school should be featured as a success story. It implements many of the reforms the establishment says it wants. It has technology in the classrooms (with an amazing low computer /student ratio), it has award winning enrichment activities, it has a low student to teacher ratio, it has an extended school day and year, and it has very few (if any) serious discipline problems. Students go to school without fear the bully.

Did some management problems exist? Yes. Those have been resolved. The state of Delaware has many complex and arcane accounting procedures which are burdensome and counterproductive. It has caused problems even in the school districts which have full time people trained to deal with the Delaware system. The out of state management firm originally used by the school was good, but they never got Delaware’s system. Money would go to wrong accounts and bills would be late. One incident gave the appearance at one point that the school was missing money, but it turned out not to be. The problem is once that hits the papers images of a past charter school (and should I say a couple of school districts) come back to the public’s memory. That was not the presses fault; it is just the way it is. These problems have actually allowed the school to become stronger by assembling what I believe is now the most qualified board in the state. I would compare the knowledge and experience of this board to any school district.

Contrary to some analysis you may have read, the school is solvent. Once the rumors of closure are behind the school enrollment recruitment will start again. The biggest obstacle to enrollment is not the quality of the school, but uncertainty. I call upon the state board to ignore the politics and give the community choice in education. The school will rise and fall by its service to the children. Let that be the standard not how politically correct the school is.

David Anderson


Blogger David said...

Victory with conditions at the state board of education.

11:43 PM  

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