Archive for the ‘Delaware Schools’ Category

Funding is Fundamental to Progress

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With the state’s budget situation casting a cloud of uncertainty in education (and beyond), the time seems right to take a look at education funding through the lens of something that is more than certain—that student needs have changed drastically since our school funding formula was developed in the 1940s.

 

We often talk about an equitable, student-centered funding system as a standalone concept. But it’s not. It’s fundamental to ensuring the success of all types of students with a spectrum needs and interests.

 

A student whose native language is not English.

A student who changes school districts halfway through the year.

A student hoping to graduate high school with college credit.

A student who wants to supplement her traditional classes with online/distance learning and community experiences.

 

These are just four examples, highlighted below, of students that could benefit from the state transitioning to a more flexible, student-centered funding system. Most states use a foundation formula, where a base amount of money—rather than units—is allocated consistently for each student, to which funding can be added based on designated student needs, such as low-income, English learners, and students with disabilities. In other words, a student’s needs are taken into account as money is distributed.

 

Funding is Fundamental to… English learners

Since 1997, Delaware has experienced a 433-percent increase in English learner students. Yet Delaware is one of four states that does not provide additional resources for English learners, meaning districts and charters must cobble together other funding to meet legal requirements for serving English learners. In other words, a school with 100 EL students receives the same amount of state funding as a school with 10 EL students—$0. Dedicated funds for EL students could help districts and charters provide a wide array of services, including hiring additional certified instructors.

Last year, Rodel was one of 22 organizations that signed a letter urging the state to consider a more equitable, student-centered funding formula. These Delaware student narratives were developed to accompany this letter. Learn more at www.educationequityde.org.

 

Funding is Fundamental to…transient students

As a research assistant for the University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration providing staff support for the Wilmington Education Advocacy Committee, I had the privilege of hearing testimonies from Wilmington parents, teachers, administrators, and community leaders. One challenge that stood out from their stories was the challenge of responding to students moving across districts. These effects may be most acutely felt in Wilmington, where moving just a few blocks can switch your school district – as it happened to me last summer – or for students with special needs who are entitled to certain services.

Funding is Fundamental to…college and career-bound students

There is a lot of momentum in Delaware for ensuring students graduate high school with credits/credentials and real-world experiences that set them up to success in whatever postsecondary path they choose. Today more than ever, there are more options available for students such as earning early college credit through Advanced Placement and dual enrollment courses, enrolling in a career pathway, or gaining work-based learning and leadership experience. But we have some work to do. We learned from the College Success report that we’re still not preparing enough young people for college coursework, and it’s possible that we’re not providing enough access to challenging courses to kids in high school, especially to students of color or students from low-income families.

 

We know that Delaware is one of about 15 states that does not allocate funding in its state formula for low-income students, which could be used for these purposes and others. While some districts may cover the costs of this offering this rigorous coursework, others may not be able to. As Mike Griffith, senior school finance analyst for Education Commission of the States, points out: “There are some states where high school students can take dual and concurrent enrollment and come out of high school with a free associate degree. And this is not a small group of elite students—but it’s open to every student. With an improved formula, your school will have greater flexibility to offer more after-school and summer school courses, and we can do so much more for our at-risk kids.

Funding is Fundamental to…personalized learning

I’ve also heard from members of the Rodel Teacher Council that the unit count funding system is one of the barriers limiting the state’s ability to scale up personalized learning models like innovative school design, reimagined teacher roles, and flexible course offerings for students. In their Student Centered Learning Structures policy brief, RTC members illustrate the connection between personalized learning and the state funding system through a fictional student named Maya.

According to RTC members in this brief, “In order for Maya and her classmates to have opportunities for online/distance learning, community experiences, and other activities related to their specific needs and interests, Delaware’s funding system will need to shift to be more student-centered.”

Funding is Fundamental to….all of Student Success 2025

Rodel is committed to supporting implementation of the Vision Coalition of Delaware’s Student Success 2025 recommendations, which are divided into six core areas including “Fair and Efficient Funding.” But it’s clear from the examples above that funding is not just a standalone core area of Student Success 2025. It affects our ability to implement recommendations across all core areas. Reevaluating how the state allocates its finite dollars could open up possibilities such as:

  • In “Educator Support and Development,” the full possibilities of implementing exciting educator career pathways are not outright hindered, but limited by barriers such as the unit count and teacher of record policies.
  • “System Governance, Alignment, and Performance,” recommends we provide LEAs with flexibility to “develop shared service arrangements” and other efficiency measures. At the moment, the state dictates what purposes units can be spent on, such as energy or behavioral health specialists, rather than provide support and incentives for efficient local resource decision-making.

 

For these reasons, Delaware’s funding system will continue to be a hot topic until we can ensure that state resources are being allocated in a way that most efficiently, equitably, and effectively allows all students to succeed.

The Link Between Career/Technical Education and Student Success

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Investing in Education
It’s not just kids, parents, and teachers who feel the impact of our public schools. If you’re a citizen of Delaware, then you are—in one way or another—affected by our state’s education system. Check back regularly as we take a closer look at how When Students Succeed, We All Win.

 

Just one career and technical education course above the average can boost a student’s odds of graduating high school and enrolling in a two-year college, according to a study by the Fordham Institute. It can also lead to a higher likelihood of college enrollment, employment, and better wages.

So how are Delaware students accessing career and technical education courses?

Approximately 70 percent of Delaware students in grades nine through 12 take a CTE course. These classes are specifically sequenced and aligned to a specific career or industry. In recent years, Delaware Pathways has strengthened the sequencing of courses through the development of state-model pathways. These pathways provide students with high-quality education, training, and support services in high-demand areas in Delaware’s economy.

Students who complete a career pathway attain a high school diploma, earn an industry-recognized credential, certificate or license that holds value in the labor market, and a clear link to opportunities to complete an associate or bachelor’s degree program at a Delaware college or university. Currently, there are more than 6,000 students enrolled in 11 state-model programs of study.

We hope to continue to expand in the coming years to give students greater opportunities to prepare for college and career success. However, the greatest obstacle to developing a strong local workforce is a lack of systemic coordination across stakeholder groups. Delaware Pathways provides a platform for educators, institutions of higher education, policymakers, and business and community leaders to work together to improve opportunities for students.

There are plenty of ways to get involved in developing Delaware’s future workforce.

Delaware in the National Pathways Spotlight: 5 Takeaways

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Beatriz Ramirez, a student at William Penn High School, found her passion for cooking through the school’s career pathways program. Photos by Amadu Mansaray.

 

Last month, from up on stage at the Chase Center on the Riverfront, Beatriz Ramirez told her story.

Today a senior at William Penn High School, Beatriz originally came to the U.S. not speaking English as a first language. She felt isolated at school, and often didn’t connect to her lessons or her fellow students.  Until, that is, she discovered the school’s culinary arts program.

In the kitchen, Beatriz found her calling. With support from the chefs and instructors at William Penn, Beatriz is confident about her future. She’s combined her learnings from school with real-life experience, training under heralded chef Tom Hannum at Buckley’s Tavern. She’s already been accepted to Johnson & Wales University and the Culinary Institute of America—two of the country’s top culinary schools.

This is a powerful experience—and it’s one being shared by thousands of young people in Delaware. Beatriz and chef Hannum joined hundreds of state leaders last month at the Third Annual Delaware Pathways Conference. In the days leading up to the conference, the national Pathways to Prosperity Network held its institute in Wilmington, bringing together 150 representatives from 13 other states to our neck of the woods to talk about the tremendous progress we’ve seen here. In just three years Delaware Pathways has grown from 27 students to just under 6,000 in 11 career pathways and 38 high schools. While we have a ways to go, other states are now looking at Delaware as a national model, and are looking to learn from our success.

[Read: A Jolt of Blue-Collar Hope, The New York Times]

As someone who has worked to improve our schools for close to three decades, this is one of the most transformative and concrete efforts I have been involved with.

As I reflect on a week’s worth of celebrating postsecondary achievements for Delaware, here are five takeaways:

 

  • Delaware is a national leader – We heard from people across the country that Delaware is leading the pack in several areas, from scaling career pathways statewide; to creating and building partnerships across the K-12 system, private employers, and higher education; and braiding together funding streams to bolster our efforts. If we keep up our momentum, Delaware could become the first state in the country to get half of our high schoolers—20,000 by 2020—into a career pathway. [Read: Delaware Pathways Leading the Way, Jobs for the Future]
  • Inclusiveness and equity is critical – These pathways need to be open to all. We heard that young people with disabilities can be huge benefactors and contributors in this work, and there’s a strong push to do more there. Groups like the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Christiana Care Health System, Downstate Transition Services, Exceptional Children, and a host of local employers are already leading the way.
  • “College” doesn’t just mean a four-year degree—Shana Payne, director of Delaware’s Office of Higher Education, pointed out during her presentation of the Delaware College Success Report, that most of us think of “college” as the typical four-year undergraduate program, which simply isn’t and shouldn’t be the case for all students. We know that two-year, certificate and apprenticeship programs can be just as (if not more) impactful for preparing young people for the real world.
  • We have some work to do – We also learned from the College Success report that we’re still not preparing enough young people for college coursework, and it’s possible that we’re not providing enough access to AP, dual-enrollment, and other challenging courses to kids in high school, especially to students of color or students from low-income families.

  • The bandwagon is filling up, but there’s still plenty of ways to get involved—We saw at the student- and family-focused Pathways Expo that more than 250 students and families and 60 community organizations attended -are lining up to help students and partner with Pathways. More employers, parents and students are joining the ranks too. Visit delawarepathways.org to learn more about how you can get involved.

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