Archive for the ‘Digging Deeper’ Category

Digging Deeper: The Dangers of Falling Behind Before Kindergarten

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Another year, another urgent message to be found in state-level data about kindergarten readiness. This year marks the second annual release of the Delaware Early Learning Survey (DE-ELS), which measures how well prepared preschoolers are for kindergarten. Kindergarten teachers observe and record their students to determine what they know and can do in areas such as math, language, literacy, and social and emotional development, to a name a few.


Much like last year, the 2017 DE-ELS shows that we still have a ton of work to do to ensure preschoolers are ready for the next level. We know that much of a child’s brain develops before they reach kindergarten, making preschool years the most essential time to build a child’s cognitive, social, and emotional intellect. But we don’t always think about how this critical time sets the stage for a child’s academic career and life success. Which is why this data paints a scary picture:


Between one-third and half of Delaware preschoolers are not prepared for kindergarten.


Most alarmingly, more than half of preschoolers aren’t ready for kindergarten-level math and just about half struggle with cognitive and social and emotional learning.



A student that struggles in early school years is not likely to be on a positive track later in their academic career. DE-ELS results offer a worrisome preview of what may be in store for students as they move into elementary, middle, and high school.


Delaware students’ academic performance data are an indicator of why we need strong investments in early learning.


Only half of students in third grade across Delaware are reading and doing math on grade level. As grade levels progress, we see less middle schoolers succeeding in math by eighth grade. Less than 30 percent of our high schoolers are ready for college level math, and only half are reading and writing on grade level in eighth grade.


We see the trend continuing as students graduate from high school. More than 40 percent of students graduating in the class of 2015 weren’t ready for college-level English or math, and were required to take remedial courses.


A successful academic career starts with robust, high-quality early learning programs.


Our earliest learners are being underserved, and it’s showing throughout their academic careers. What can we do about it?


  • Join a Delaware Readiness Team. Families, early childhood providers, educators, and community leaders can make a difference and help children from birth to third grade build focused action plans.
  • Advocate for expanding pre-k for four-year-olds. We know that investments in quality early learning benefit children and society. By ensuring at all children have fair access to pre-K programs, we all can reap those benefits.
  • Increase quality across all early learning programs. Support high-quality early childhood programs by raising standards, increasing Stars quality levels, and requiring that programs receiving childcare subsidy reach a minimum level of quality.


To see last year’s survey, check out this brief on 2016 DE-ELS Key Findings.

Digging Deeper: Are Students Finding Value in College and Career Supports?

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We’ve heard a lot in the news about expanding career training opportunities and rising participation rates in rigorous Advanced Placement courses. However, much of these celebrations (and sometimes lamentations) are often made by those people providing or supporting the service. Rarely, however, do advocates hear directly from students themselves about the supports they are receiving.

Rodel and our partners wanted to change that. When we began planning for the Supporting Postsecondary Success in Delaware: A Landscape Analysis of Opportunities we knew that reaching students would be critical.

This analysis reviews the characteristics, assets, and barriers of Delaware’s college and career preparation services. The non-scientific survey results include responses from 235 public school students in grades seven through 12. Student focus groups were also conducted, however results are not shown here. Although the student survey is not representative of the entire Delaware student population, results revealed that students surveyed might have different perceptions about existing college and career success supports and services than some might expect.

Students point to parents and family as the most helpful in preparing them for their future.

With a counselor-to-student ratio of 464 students to every one counselor, it should come as no surprise that Delaware students must seek others for post-high school advice. Students overwhelmingly rely on their family (87 percent) and teachers (64 percent) for help on their postsecondary future.


Students feel under-supported in planning for college and career after high school.

  • On career advising: When asked if anyone had helped them to find a job related to their career interests, 52 percent said no, or that what help they did receive was not helpful.
  • On choosing a college: More than one-third indicated receiving little help or unhelpful advising when deciding what college to attend based on their career interests.
  • On finding the right fit: Forty-four percent said that they received no help or unhelpful guidance on the difference between admission requirements for community colleges and four-year colleges.
  • On college affordability: While 82 percent said they received helpful advice on how much it will cost to attend college, 42 percent and 37 percent said they did not receive helpful advice on how to apply for financial aid or scholarships, respectively.

Despite available supports, students aren’t accessing programs and services that can help them with postsecondary planning.

  • On college and career planning: While nearly 80 percent of students developed a Student Success Plan (SSP) using Career Cruising, only 40 percent found it somewhat or very helpful in planning for their future. Career Cruising is an online platform that students can use to explore careers and develop a SSP. Students are required to create an SSP in eighth and update it throughout high school.
  • On existing supports: Eighty-one percent did not use or did not find it helpful to use SPARC (a web-based career exploration platform) to learn about careers. Sixty-nine percent have not used the State Scholarship Compendium.
  • On services and programs: More than 40 percent have not participated in or found unhelpful a program in school that helped inform them about college or career options. Nearly half indicated the same about out-of-school programs.

The current college and career support landscape leaves many students wanting more.

Many students are looking for more support on finding scholarships and internships, not surprisingly. Despite existing resources for students to use to find scholarships and funding (e.g. Delaware Scholarship Compendium or $tand By Me), students are not accessing these supports.

The landscape analysis also shares the perceptions of advocates, educators, and other stakeholders. Overall, recommendations from the study called for better collaboration among providers, business community, and schools; stronger college and career preparation for under resourced students; more attention on student mental health and social and emotional supports; and a re-evaluation of what high quality college and career counseling looks like.

The good news is that while students may not realize how many programs and services are available for their success, they still have high hopes for their futures. Many intend on getting a two-year, four-year, or graduate degree after high school. Nearly 70 percent have received helpful guidance on job search techniques (such as resume writing and interview skills). And more than 60 percent have a been advised on the type of SAT scores needed to get into the colleges they want. Finally, 70 percent of students have visited a college campus.

Students are getting exposure to college and career supports. But, if we want to make sure students have everything they need for success, strong and decisive action must be taken to improve our current system of support.

Digging Deeper: The Many Languages of Delaware English Learner Students

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Delaware’s English learner (EL) population is the fastest growing student demographic in the state—seeing some 400 to 600 percent increases in the last decade, depending on what county you are in. ELs are a diverse group of students representing a vast number of languages, cultures, ethnicities, nationalities, and social, economic, and educational backgrounds.


They are students with limited English (language) proficiency who, because of foreign birth or ancestry, speak a language other than English. They account for eight percent—approximately 10,000 individuals—of the student population and three out of four are American-born. They collectively speak nearly 100 unique, native languages. And though ELs comprehend, read, or write little or no English when they enroll in school, studies have shown that students that later identity as multilingual or have exposure to another language, show signs of higher cognitive ability, a greater likelihood of economic benefit, and foster greater empathy for their peers and community.

In an effort to promote awareness about this population of Delaware students, a new series of fact sheets launched by the Delaware Hispanic Commission, the Arsht-Cannon Fund, Delaware English Language Learners Teachers and Advocates, and the Rodel Foundation of Delaware will provide specific insight to the life of an EL, how the state is serving this community, and more.


Click here to learn more about Delaware’s EL students. And here are just some of the 90+ languages spoken by less than one percent of ELs:


Language: Afrikaans

Where? Afrikaans is a West Germanic language, and part of the Indo-European language family, and primarily spoken in South Africa, Namibia and to some extent, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

By the numbers: About 86 Delaware EL student speak Afrikaans. However, there are 7.1 million native speakers of the language, with some 10.3 million second-language speakers.

Common Phrase:Lekker eet!” … “Have a nice meal!”

Fun Fact: Afrikaans is the youngest official language in the world, only having replaced Dutch in 1983.


Language: Gujarati

Where? An Indo-Aryan language native to the India state of Gujarat.

By the numbers: Around 84 Delaware EL students speak Gujarati, but worldwide there are around 50 million speakers, making it the 26th-most-spoken native language in the world.

Common phrase: “નાણું મળશે પણ ટાણું નઈ મળે” … “Choose time over money.”

Fun Fact: Gujarati was the first language of Mahatma Gandhi and Muhammad Ali Jinnah.


Language: Tagalog

Where? An Austronesian language native to the Philippines.

By the numbers: About 42 Delaware EL students speak Taglog, with 28 million first-language speakers and some 45 million second-language speakers. It is both a national and minority-recognized language in the Philippines.

Common phrase:Mabuhay” … “long live,” “cheers,” or, “welcome.”

Fun Fact: The English word ‘boondocks’ is actually a Filipino loanword. The Tagalog word for ‘mountain’ is ‘bundok.’


Language: Marathi

Where? Marathi is an Indian language spoke predominantly by the Marathi people of Maharashtra. It is one of the 22 scheduled languages of India.

By the numbers: About 18 Delaware EL students speak Marathi, each of whom are a part of the 73 million people that speak it worldwide. With this figure, it ranks 19th in the list of most spoken languages in the world.

Common phrase: “सुप्रभात” … “Good morning.” “शुभ रात्री” … “Good night.”

Fun fact: The Marathi script consists of 16 vowels and 36 consonants—making a 52 character alphabet.


Language: Ga

Where? Ga is a Kwa language spoken in Ghana, in and around the capital city of Accra.

By the numbers: About three Delaware EL students speak Ga. There are less than one million—745,000—speakers worldwide.

Common phrase: “Eŋɔɔ minaa akɛ mile bo ekpe.” … “I am pleased to meet you.”

Fun fact: Ga is just one of the 16 languages published by the Bureau of Ghana Languages, despite the relatively low number of dialectal variation.


Language: Czech

Where? Czech, historically known as Bohemian, is a West Slavic language and official language of the Czech Republic.

By the numbers: Approximately three Delaware EL students speak Czech amongst the 10.7 million native speakers worldwide.

Common Phrase: “Smím prosit?” … “Would you like to dance?”

Fun fact: The U.S. Foreign Institute has ranked Czech the second most difficult language to learn—with a special note to the formal and informal iterations of the language.


Language: Navajo

Where? The language is a South Athabaskan language of the Na-Dene family, which is related to the languages spoken across the western states of North America. It is primarily spoke in the Southwestern United States.

By the numbers: Approximately one Delaware EL student speaks Navajo. There are about 170,000 native speakers. There has been a struggle to keep a healthy speaker base, but has somewhat been alleviated by the extent of education programming on the Navajo Nation.

Common phrase: “tʼáá hó ájítʼéego tʼéiyá” … “Just do it,” “it’s up to you,” or “that’s all it takes (take responsibility for yourself).”

Fun fact: Despite being among the best-documented native American languages, it was used as a code language during WWII due to no Navajo dictionaries being published.

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