Every new year brings with it a sense of transition and opportunity—a chance for a fresh start or reinvention. Between midterm elections, nail-biting budget negotiations, and big issues unfolding in Wilmington and beyond—2018 could shake up the world of public education. The team at Rodel has examined the tea leaves and compiled its 10 Delaware education issues to watch in 2018.
- The Budget
Later this week, Gov. John Carney will deliver his spending plan for FY19 to the General Assembly, and while the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council is projecting about $24 million more to spend than last fiscal year, another challenging financial picture could remain on the horizon. As the legislature returns to session, the heat is on lawmakers to find ways to spend more efficiently, particularly in public education, which makes up roughly one-third of the state’s budget. Enter the newly formed Government Efficiency and Accountability Review (GEAR) Board, the School District Consolidation Task Force, and the Education Equity Delaware coalition. A pending lawsuit over Delaware’s 70-year-old school funding system adds another wrinkle to an already complex issue.
- ESSA and School Report Cards
With Delaware’s state Every Student Succeeds Act plan finished and filed, the focus now shifts to the legislation’s hotly debated report card mandate. The design of the report cards—which are meant to equip families with information about school performance—will come under scrutiny between now and June 2018, during which DDOE will host a series of community engagement activities. Community members will help decide what information should be in the report card, and the best ways to present that information.
- The Rise of Work-Based Learning
Delaware Pathways has been one of the runaway success stories of the past few years, with more than 9,000 students enrolled and earning valuable career acumen, college credits, industry credentials, and more. The next big chapter: Work-based learning. Delaware Technical Community College tapped former Family Court Judge Chandlee Kuhn to head its new Office of Work-Based Learning, which is tasked with facilitating connections with school and college personnel, and building partnerships with business and industry to create more opportunities for students. In December, Gov. Carney convened a roundtable discussion to energize some of Delaware’s most prominent employers around the expansion of work-based learning. The goal? Engage 20,000 youth in career pathways in high-demand fields, and support over 7,000 youth to gain work-based learning experience in high-demand fields by 2020.
- English Learners
You may have heard: Delaware’s EL student population is on the rise in a big way. Over the last decade, we’ve seen a statewide increase of over 400 percent in the number of English learner students—including nearly 600-percent growth in Sussex County. While these primarily native-born Americans, who collectively speak nearly 100 native languages, are just like your average student—they often face language barriers or unique social and emotional challenges that create barriers to higher education and eventual careers. With Delaware’s outdated school funding system standing in the way (we’re only four states that doesn’t provide additional education funding for English learners), advocates are clamoring for awareness and change.On a similar note, the fate of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) legislation hangs in the balance. There are around 4,000 eligible young people in Delaware—many of whom found their way to Delaware State University—must wait as well.
- Wilmington Schools
The much-talked-about MOU between the Christina School District and Gov. John Carney’s office is still awaiting a vote from Christina school board. But it could have huge implications for the district, its staff, and its families. Proposed changes range from larger salaries for teachers, renovations to Bancroft Elementary and Bayard Middle schools, funding to reduce class sizes, and funding for students living in poverty or learning English as a second language.
- Student- and Teacher-Driven Changes
As teachers take a more active role in policy conversations—including helping to shape the state’s ESSA plan—and as students become more empowered to control their learning, it’s safe to say we can anticipate more influence from the people inside the classroom. “If we listen to students, it will drive changes in how we deliver instruction, provide feedback, and ‘give credit’ for coursework,” says Robyn Howton, a longtime member of the Rodel Teacher Council. As technology fuels more ownership and creativity in the classroom, the demand for more robust broadband connectivity also rises.
- Deepening Social and Emotional Learning
Could we see a big transition year for social and emotional learning as it moves from buzzy concept to classroom implementation, standards, and policy? Some educators, including members of the Rodel Teacher Council, think so. In a survey, more than nine out of 10 educators say explicitly adopting state standards for social and emotional skills—combined with training—would help provide deeper guidance and legitimacy. And, according to Supporting Postsecondary Success in Delaware: A Landscape Analysis of Student Opportunities, while many community-based organizations offer SEL services, young people may have difficulty finding the right ones, or navigating different options. A common framework and strategy for collaborative messaging and distribution of services, the report argues, could help community-based organizations and their partner schools achieve greater impact. What’s next for SEL in Delaware?
- Supporting Students In Need
Local civil rights groups hit state leaders last week with a lawsuit over Delaware’s antiquated funding system, claiming it provides more support for children who are well off than it provides for children living in poverty and English learners. Many advocates—from the Education Equity Delaware coalition to the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission—have urged for such a change in recent years. Elsewhere members of the early learning community are pushing for a $5.9 million door-opener that was recommended by the Delaware Department of Education to support tiered reimbursements for new early learning programs entering the Stars quality rating program this fiscal year (on top of existing ones trying to move up). Many priorities should make for some drama during budget markup later this spring.
- Investing in Two-Generation StrategiesAn idea on-the-rise from family health advocates that’s gaining traction, two-generation approaches focus on creating opportunities for and addressing needs of both children and the adults in their lives together, recognizing that families and their challenges come in all different shapes and sizes. In Delaware this is manifesting through increased focus on home visits by organizations like Early Head Start, Healthy Families America, Nurse-Family Partnership, and Parents as Teachers. It’s also a part of the plan for Gov. Carney’s Family Services Cabinet Council, which will collaborate with a Christina School District team to create and implement a two-generation center, designed to provide supports to early learners and their parents.
- Local Elections
2018 will be a pivotal year nationwide for midterm elections. And in Delaware, as much as 20 percent of the General Assembly may turn over come September, including some key leadership positions.