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Academy of Dover Turnaround–one person’s perspective 16 July, 2008

Posted by David Anderson in Education, Election 2008, Local, Revolutionary Reform.

UPDATE: Http://www.whyy.org has the replay of Thursday’s newscast in which we were part of the lead story.

There is nothing more fulfilling than being a part of success. The school is one of the great turnaround stories in Delaware education. Student Achievement is up. School morale is up. The school is run better in accordance to best practices in many areas. More needs to be and will be accomplished to make this a premier school. I am fully optimistic that the next year will bring that goal to reality.

Now it should be obvious that this was a team effort. In fact I would say optimistically, I may be responsible for 5%, but my 5% was essential to it happening. When I highlight my part in this to show you why I can be trusted, let it be with the understanding that a lot of other people did their part too. It was a team effort as the article said and without everyone’s effort the school would have failed. I especially credit the leadership of Mrs. Mary Scott (board president), Mrs. Leida Sanchez, MBA (treasurer), and the dedicated staff who went beyond the call of duty.

The Academy of Dover was a good school fundamentally, but it was facing some real challenges. The former management company did not live up to expectations and the school faced closure if changes weren’t made. The Department of Education demanded a new board of directors be chosen. I was honored to be one of those selected.

We faced 4 challenges. We needed better administrative procedures including financial management and reporting. We needed to improve our test scores and raise student achievement. We needed to meet 24 conditions set by the department of education. We needed to restore our image (damaged by the negative publicity from the problems which threatened the school’s viability) in the community and among our own parents.

Board President Mary Scott gave us our assignments. There was too much work to be done as a full board in just a couple of months before school opened this past year. So we each took an area and reported back to our committees which compiled and reviewed the work and reported back to the full board. We still had to have special meetings which lasted for 4 and 5 hours each (for an unpaid position). The results were worth the effort. We accomplished the conditions several at a time. We established Board Procedures for governing the school. We retained a firm to do an audit. We established best practice financial management. We sat down with our management consultants and made clear what we needed to happen. We had our contracts brought up to best practice legal standards. We brought the school up to the same standard expected of districts in many ways.

Stage 2
After the administrative items were handled, we went for the tougher job of bringing up student achievement. We implemented tracking of every student so a teacher and parents could know were each student stood not only in a class grade, but on each skill to be tested upon by the State (DSTP). We used Iowa testing at the beginning and end of the year. Next year we will test at the beginning, middle, and end of the year using MAPS.

I proposed a new math curriculum, Singapore Math which will be implemented next year. It is the number 1 rated math program in the world. We will be one of three schools in the state of Delaware to pioneer the program.

I also proposed a physical fitness policy, we now have one reflecting recommended practices and even received a grant to improve it. School safety was another priority of mine (having a child in the school) even though we had no incidents. We tightened some procedures and our bringing in more technology to help us over the coming year.

I have also had a part in bettering communications with the parents through a newsletter and an updated website. I also authored a parent satisfaction survey.

We are utilizing our computers better to aid learning. We have one for every 2 students. One of my areas was technology.

My part included writing some of the board procedures. It also included marketing and public relations. I authored the marketing strategy for the school. It was a low cost/ high effectiveness strategy. The school’s enrollment is up over 30% and climbing.

Stage 3

I am also one of those who proposed a gifted and talented program which will be brought on line this coming school year. We look to implement new after school programs.

We have cut unnecessary spending to get the most from every dollar. We used what we saved to hire enough staff so that we have a single digit student/faculty ratio.

As I said many others did more, I am certainly not the star of the show, but my part was also significant. Because I am an activist, I do not believe in just belonging to a group. I am a man of action. If elected to levy court, I will do my best to achieve the goals laid out. I want to see a strong, sustainable economy. I have a record of achieving what I set out to do. Please give me a chance to work for you.

Whatever happened to the LEAD Report? 30 April, 2008

Posted by David Anderson in Budget, Education, State.
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Whatever happened to this concept? It looks like the senate is not the only place which has a desk drawer. Governor Minner would you please dust off the Lead Report?

The BCG team reviewed potential efficiency opportunities within the state’s $1.65

billion education budget, and identified opportunities with an annual value of $86-158

million once fully and successfully implemented. This potential includes $55-110 million

in operating savings and $31-48 million in capital savings. The operating savings is split

between savings that would be realized at the state level and savings that would be

captured by individual districts and schools. (For each opportunity listed below, the

corresponding estimated potential annual savings is provided in parentheses.)

BCG leveraged past experience, interviews, and prior data and reports to develop an

initial set of hypotheses on potential efficiency opportunities.

Let’s be clear, I do not favor eliminating the 3 million dollar subside for non public school students in transportation. I also do not favor mandatory centralized purchasing because it will not save us money. There is a reason small purchases are made through other vendors. My experience has shown me those are phantom savings. I don’t think the DSEA would tolerate messing with their retirement and I support them on that. Unfortunately, we are not ready to centralize administration. Take those off the table.

That leaves 10’s of millions which can be saved through energy, eliminating fixed bus route compensation, construction reform and more. We could save 50 million plus this year without pain. That could be used for the 30 million we need and the rest for reform efforts. Let’s get going. Leave out the most controversial items and you still have a bonanza.

Let’s do something that works. 1 April, 2008

Posted by David Anderson in Education, Local.
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UPDATE: A LINK ON Los Angeles success with Singapore Math. Those meeting the standard went from 45% to 76% in one year!

I am grateful some people in this state are fighting to improve education. They have an ambitious and thoughtful agenda. It is called 2015. This is not a post criticizing 2015. To the contrary, I am glad to say that we don’t need to wait for improvement. I believe that one of the best cases for charter schools is that it doesn’t take 5 years to make a change and 5 years to get rid of something that doesn’t work.

There are a few schools who already meet much of what is being proposed by the experts. The Academy of Dover is one. It offers more instructional time. It has more computers for the children than any district by far. It is accredited which is a rare feat for an elementary school. It is contracted with Innovative schools, which is supported by the same people who proposed 2015.The Academy of Dover is one of the first schools to have much of its curriculum mapped to the state standards ahead of state mandates. It also is implementing individualized learning plan strategy. Each student will have their own learning program and be taught to compensate for any weaknesses which are discovered during the school year. It was an ambitious plan and it has come to pass. We didn’t have to wait. At this school we are in the future.

Now I am proud to say that we are adopting Singapore Math. Singapore is number one in the world in Math and schools here including Massachusetts (which is at the top in America in Math) have used the American edition with great success. My wife and I have been advocating the world’s finest program for a few years. Recently the board approved my proposal and has accepted grants to make AOD one of three schools in Delaware to spearhead the initiative.

This is something well suited for Charter Schools because of the ease of innovation. We will serve as the test market in Delaware so the district Public schools can be assured that what works in Singapore, Massachusetts, and inner city charters in Los Angeles will work in Delaware. There will be testing at the beginning, middle, and end of the year to track improvements. The national experts will train our teachers over the summer and be available to help make any adjustment during the year. It has been mapped to Delaware standards and will be the most exciting initiative in years. The best push for change is a good example.

Protect your charter schools or else your children may never know excellence even in 2015. Without living examples, the establishment will make this initiative go the way of America 2000, Goals 2000, NCLB, Nation at Risk or any of a number of great sounding goals. Protecting choice in public schools is about bettering education for every child.

Note of full disclosure: Author is part of the Academy of Dover Board of Directors. A new board was selected to “take the school to the next level” a year ago.

Another example of our tax money being misspent in Education 22 March, 2008

Posted by David Anderson in Education, State.

Children believe what their schools teach them. I have found that to be a scary thought over the years. We wonder why our children fall behind the world. They are not dumb. They work hard, we spend a lot educating them, and our teachers, as a group, are dedicated beyond just doing their job. The teachers are still not paid well enough, but we have made great strides to ensure teacher compensation is now competitive to many other fields when adjusted for hours spent. We are reducing class size and adding technology. What’s wrong?

I think there are many things wrong, but let’s start with the most basic of all tools–textbooks. One of the nation’s top text book company is Houghton Mifflin. A recent audit in Texas (The Dallas Morning News Nov. 16, 2007)found 86,000 textbook errors in the Math series. I haven’t found the history texts much better in my personal experience. The second grade textbook says Abigail Adams was married to Sam Adams not John Adams. They even have them in side by side pictures and make a big deal about her importance as a founding mother. I agree with her profound importance. Two Presidents sought her input Washington and Adams, mostly Adams. How she did that while married to Sam, I don’t know. It might be easier to understand if you know that she was married to John Adams. Their reading series is 17 points worse in results on the AYP than Open Court.

I don’t just fault one publisher, 109,263 errors were found in the Math textbooks in Texas with Houghton Mifflin having 79% of them. What is amazing is that they are still selected. My search for reasons is incomplete. The publisher is a big donor to community charities, partners with the NEA, and is cheap. I am sure that we would not go bargain basement to save a dollar or two a book; would we?

My problem is that the system just keeps ignoring this year after year. We had this same type of problem a decade ago and it still exists. I can show were this publisher had these problems back in the late ’80’s. They still get the contracts. Why should they care? The system still gives them the money. It doesn’t seem to care. Textbooks are not selected by quality, but by some other factor. What is it? The kids are caught between the complacency of the corporate bureaucracy and the political bureaucracy.

In Delaware, it seems many of our standards are geared to conform with this publisher. I want us to focus on what our children need to know. It seems like the system hasn’t gotten there yet. Our Department of Education seems to love this publisher. I can’t explain it, but I do know that we will never have the schools we desire until we get the basics right.