DELAWARE PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM REFORM

   On our Delaware Citizens' Information and Action Forum's  school system reform page, we will discuss the following information related to Delaware's public school systems:

   The Facilitator of this civic/political issue area once gave all 68 elected officials in both our state government's executive and legislative branches of OUR state government a package of documented program and cost effective information about the Quality District Model (QDM). Our Forum's Overall Facilitator had served for over two  decades as a national Consultant/Trainer for both the U.S. Department of Education and the QDM's nonprofit Partners for Quality Learning national/international organization. During this period, he also served as Editor-in-Chief of three national/international professional education journals which included Partners' national/international Journal of Quality Learning.  Included in the package to these elected officials was a letter inviting them to become informed about this nationally-acclaimed, proven school reform model. Not a single response! Give a civic thought here. Sixty two in our Legislature constitutionally responsible for efficient public schooling, eight in our Executive Branch and not a ONE wanting to learn about our nation's ONLY validated (1986) and revalidated (1994) public school system reform model. These  important validation research-documented studies were conducted by the prestigious Program Effectiveness Panel estabkished by the US Department of Education. The Quality District Model (QDM) is the only comprehensive districwide reform model in our nation's history that was validated and recommended be utilized by every school district in our nation. Another reseasrch-proven continuous progress for all students reform system is the Developmentally Appropriate Practices (DAP) program developed by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). More evidence as to the importance of our Forum's mission of having unified, informed voting citizens identify, enlist and support the election of informed, reform committed candidates for all of our state level elective offices.

   Since public education began approximately a century ago, generation after generation of citizens have been programmed to believe public schooling is best provided as follows: in graded settings with quiet, passive students sitting in rows learning via isolated, rote memorization from textbook chapters, worksheets, teacher lectures all regurgitated in "Gotcha" tests on Fridays and periodic detached standardized test assaults; with the horrible short-term and long-term devastating personal/social practices of sorting, flunking, labeling, drugging and segregating student victims in a "winners-losers" belief system; and creating inappropriate and disruptive student behaviors with these counterproductive practices while giving the pharmaceutical and medical industries a piece of these harmful actions via drugging with Prozac and Ritalin. Principals and teachers are equal victims in this superimposed uninformed, coercive, threatening  environment. This disproven system is based on a "one size fits all" factory model and not on individual student needs and potential.

   Let's examine preschool reality with our good common sense. Little preschoolers from ALL ethnic, socio-economic and other backgrounds have ALL learned some of their most important learnings in life before they enter kindergarten or the first grade. They have learned to competently communicate in the language of their culture. They've learned to problem solve,  learned self-help and safety skills and learned the social behaviors of their home/neighborhood/community environments. ALL have learned by self-directed, self-motivated and ACTIVE efforts. They enter our formal schooling with lips turned upward, confident they will be successful.. In their preschool experiences, they were not graded by an A-F system, not placed in Red Bird, Blue Bird and Buzzard groupings and only jars and cans were labeled in their lives. Then in our first grade the perpetuation of outmoded practices produces our highest sorting, flunking and labeling rates of all 12 grades. The drugging begins and many seeds are planted for costly inappropriate and disruptive behaviors. Also, this is the key grade where drop-out thoughts are implanted. Building principals, teachers and other building level staff are equal victims in our costly, stratified, strangulated bureaucratic nonsystems.

   These self-directed, self-motivated learnings of preschoolers is accomplished by meaningful CONCRETE learning experiences. They all learn at different rates and styles of learning and we accept this reality. We wouldn't line up any age group to run a physical race and expect them to cross the line at the same time. And they all will successfully cross the finish line. Kids from lower socio-economic families need more prerequisites or readiness activities and time in kindergarten and the first grade to transition successfully from CONCRETE to academic ABSTRACT learnings. An example of CONCRETE learning is to hold a red apple up in front of a group of four-year-olds and all will tell you it's a red apple. Show this group red apple written on a page and they can't tell you it's a red apple. Kids from lower socio-economic families don't get the picture books, other educational or play toys and equipment, trips to library story hours, zoos, museums, etc. that middle and upper income families can provide. Our norm-referenced standarized tests driven system starts failing them in kindergarten by not giving the readiness and time needed to transition from CONCRETE to ABSTRACT learnings. The highest failure and labeling rate is in the first grade. This is the most stressful and abusive assault on these children they will ever experience in their lives.

   The updated Quality District Model (QDM) systemic reform organizational arrangement and process  is derived from the Outcomes Driven Developmental Model (ODDM). Both were developed under the leadership of two superintendents of the Johnson City, NY public school district. Their two recent important publications will be cited later. Reams of research data from standarized academic achievement tests taken by students in our nation's properly implemented QDM schools show at least two grade level gains in district wide academic achievement. The original QDM district, a lower income "Blue Collar" district, showed district wide academic standardized test score gains of FOUR grade levels. QDM districts graduate over 90 percent of their students while Delaware, in the upper 10 states in per pupil annual funding, graduats slightly over 60 percent of its public school students.

    Credible, effective school reform requires district wide comprehensive, systemic reform. Few decision-making professional educational administrators, school board members or politicians understand this fact. Our history in education is to tinker and insert a component or two into our flawed systems and then proclaim some reform success. The QDM requires district commitment to involve all stakeholder groups to thoroughly complete the awareness, understanding and implementation phases of systemic reform.

   A properly implemented Quality District Model will enable every student to realize continuous academic and other developmental progress at her/his rate and style of learning. All proven, best knowledge components required for the QDM must be competently acquired and orchestrated for effective systemic reform. This requires total commitment of district decision-makers to provide all the required initial and continued  training and time needed for building level staff and parents to confidently and competently assume leadership and ownership of all reform changes. The exemplary Kentucky Education Reform Act legally mandated a number of components used in the QDM. They further legally mandated that needed training in these best knowledge components must be provided all district-wide program staff and parent leaders. Their state law further required that all district professional program staff would have to demonstrate they had learned and could competently apply this best reform knowledge or they would not retain jobs in the district.  They also legally mandated that all program decisions would be made at the school building level by a program committee comprised of the principal, three building teachers elected by their peers and two building level parents elected by peers. The Quality District Model will make this possible in every effectively reformed Delaware public school district. 

   One of the more important components in a comprehensive systemic QDM reformed school system is the Developmentally Appropriate Practices Primary Phase (Kindergarten-Grade 3) program developed by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). This proven child-focused and friendly continuous progress program was legally mandated in the Kentucky Education Reform Act. The  Facilitator for our Association's school reform issue area was the first Consultant/Trainer Kentucky brought in to train their state department staff, district superintendents, building principals and lead teachers on this important K-3 program. This NAEYC K-3 primary phase program has been endorsed and recommended by the National Association of State School Boards, the Elementary Principal's Association, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and many other organizations involved in early childhood education and development.Why isn't it in every one of our elementary public schools in Delaware?

    In a competent, system-wide reformed Quality District Model (QDM) all district and building level program staff are thoroughly trained to successfully include and orchestrate the following reform changes in addition to the NAEYC K-3 program: instructional teams replacing isolated, separated classrooms; full utilization of interwoven student self-directed and self-motivated learning all brought into kindergarten; multi-aged and multi-ability student groupings with full inclusion of all handicapped and slower learning students; full utilization of the valuable creative and higher order thinking and problem solving learnings in Bloom's Taxonomy and Guilford's Structure of the Intellect; various forms of effective student cooperative learning; aligned mastery learning replacing mystery "Gotcha" learning; incorporation of invitational education resources; full use and instructional integration of related instructional staff offerings in the disciplines of art, music, physical education, health education (nurse), librarian, and therapists; performance embedded ongoing assessment and authentic assessment recorded in portfolios; use of computer and other relevant technology; interdisciplinary curriculum units; and providing all needed initial and continuing education training for district staff and parents as all program decisions at all times are screened through best knowledge from research findings and proven, data-based practices.

   The systemic Quality District Model (QDM) reform our Forum recommends for our Delaware public schools will never even be explored unless citizens and organizations outside the political/bureaucratic controlling inner circle strongly invite or even force these decision-makers  to establish a statewide public school stakeholder group to thoroughly complete the awareness/understanding/implementation phases of change as all QDM districts have accomplished.  Our unified Forum will ask our involved citizens and organizations to ask and even insist that our state legislators, especially the members of OUR House/Senate Education Committees, establish a Delaware School Reform Stakeholder Committee to thoroughly learn about what the proven program and cost effective Quality District Model will bring into our state's public schools.  

    Using this Quality District Model reform system,  Delaware will only need one public school district in each county as does nearby Maryland and a number of other states.  Making this sensible reform change and the changes listed below will help save approximately $150 million of the slightly over $1 Billion of our tax funds spent annually for public education in our state. Additional savings are realized by eliminating repeated grades, need for Summer schools, not creating mildly handicapped special education students, and eliminating very costly teacher time wasted handling inappropriate and disruptive behaviors caused by our student abusive practices discussed earlier on this page. Don't believe these statements? Then don't bother to understand the ceiling high research that is readily available and can be cited by our Forum..

   The questions our Forum will ask all state level candidates for OUR elective public offices on our Candidate Survey form will be if they will support the following: establishing a statewide public school stakeholder group to learn about and support implementing the Quality District Model in our state's public school districts and schools;  provide or secure the relatively small amount of funds needed to comprehensively train district/school building staff and parent leaders for successful QDM implementation; and work to have only one public school district in each of our three counties.

   Our Forum will cite a number of "must study" resources to more competently understand the need to reform our Delaware school districts and schools by implementing the Quality District Model (QDM). Essential are two recently published books on the Quality District Model by the two superintendents who gave leadership to the development of this valuable contribution to our nation and others. The publications on the QDM are as follows: Creating the Ideal School: Where Teachers Want to Teach and Students Want to Learn by Dr. Albert Mamary; and Schools Are For Winning: A Challenge You Can't Miss by Dr. John R. Champlin. When Dr. Mamary's valuable 2007 publication was placed for sale on Amazon.com, it was the immediate best seller in Japan and number two in its category in our nation. Another excellent publication on credible, effective early childhood Kindergarten through Grade Three (desired component of the Quality District Model) is Developmentally Appropriate Practive in Early Childhood Programs availkable from the National Association for the Education of Young Children at 1-800-424-2460. Another must read is The Schools our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and "Tougher Standards" by Dr. Alfie Kohn. A recent "must read" publication on the devastating, counterproductive results of our superimposed No Child Left Behind high stakes standardized testing disaster is Collateral Damage: How High-Stakes Testing Corrupts America's Schools by Dr. Sharon L. Nichols and Dr. David C. Berliner. A second recent publication denouncing the costly No Child Left Behind farce is Many Children Lrft Behind: How the No Child Left Behind Act is Damaging our Children and our Schools by Drs. Deborah Meier, Alfie Kohn, Linda Darling-Hammond, Theodore R. Sizer and George Wood. Another publication which discusses research findings on the short-term and long-term harmful effects of flunking and retention is Flunking Grades: Research and Policies on Retention by Dr. Lorrie Shepard and Dr.Mary Lee Smith. All publications cited can be obtained through Amozon.com except Dr. Champlin's book. His can be ordered for $18 plus $4.95 for shipping and handling from the Institute for Quality Learning, 10115 East Bella Vista Drive, Scottsdale, AZ 85258. 

   The Issue Area Facilitator and contact resource person for this school reform issue area is our Forum's Facilitator, Dr. Floyd E. McDowell, Sr. His address is 11 Dover Court, Bear, DE 19701. Phone number is (302) 832-2799 and email address is flydmcdwll@verizon.net. As with other Issue Area Facilitators and Co-Facilitators, he is available as a presenter/discussant on this school reform issue at meetings of Delaware organizations.