Archive for the ‘Digging Deeper’ Category

Digging Deeper: Are Delaware Students Safe and Engaged?

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Digging Deeper
“Digging Deeper” is a recurring feature at the Rodel blog where we take some data on Delaware public schools—and put it under the microscope. In the spirit of our Public Education at a Glance, we’ll present a straightforward look at the numbers, and search for some deeper meaning.


Academic achievement is but one aspect of student success. To develop the “whole child” we must also nurture a student’s social and emotional skills. Research shows that a positive school climate impacts both academic achievement and the development of social and emotional skills. As recent concerns about school safety intensify, a stronger focus on school climate could help ensure that students remain safe and engaged.

According to the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) six out of 10 Delaware children meet the Promoting School Success Index. This index measures student engagement, participation in extracurricular activities, and feeling safe at school. The survey provides data on various aspects of a child’s life, from physical and mental wellness, to neighborhood, school, and social contexts.

Eight out of 10 of eighth graders reported feeling safe in school in 2016. Still, almost half of students in eighth grade feel that violence is a problem at their school, according to the Delaware School Survey. The same pattern can be seen in fifth and 11th grade.

Research shows a correlation between student engagement in school and student achievement. Student engagement, often defined as students actively participating in learning, focusing attention to the topic at hand and staying on task. When students remain engaged, they learn better and perform better.

A positive school climate—one where students feel safe and cared for—influences not only academic performance, but behavioral outcomes and emotional health, according to the National School Climate Center. In fact, supporting positive school climate can be a preventative method for violence, bullying, and distraction.

Some solutions: Prioritizing Student Engagement and Safety

While the majority of Delaware students report feeling safe and engaged, it’s fair to ask: Is that enough? Student Success 2025 has a goal for all students to feel safe in school, and aims to raise the number of students that are consistently engaged in school to 95 percent. Thankfully we have some possible solutions to consider.

  • Using a personalized learning model, each student is met where they are academically while student agency and ownership is leveraged to increase engagement. To learn what personalized learning looks like in a Montessori classroom, read “Liberty within Limits: Personalized Learning in the Montessori Classroom” by Rodel Teacher Council member Cheryl Lynn Jones.
  • Delaware Pathways, a program designed to prepare public school students for the workforce, offers more real-life experiences and connections for students to remain on track for success. When students know that that success after high school is within reach, they are more likely to remain engaged in school.
  • Social and Emotional Learning, or the process through which students are taught positive relationship building, positive self-image, responsible decision-making, and other useful skills, is just one way that schools can create a supportive school environment and keeps students engaged. Check out this blog for more background on social and emotional learning—and to see what is already happening in Delaware.

Digging Deeper: Does Teacher Diversity Matter?

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“Digging Deeper” is a recurring feature at the Rodel blog where we take some data on Delaware public schools—and put it under the microscope. In the spirit of our Public Education at a Glance, we’ll present a straightforward look at the numbers, and search for some deeper meaning.

Kuumba classroom

There is a growing body of research suggesting that a more diverse teacher workforce increases student wellbeing and academic success. However, in Delaware—and the nation—the teacher workforce is far less racially diverse than the student populations they serve.


Here we’ll explore:

  • What does research say about the benefits of teacher diversity?
  • What is the current state of educator diversity in Delaware?
  • Who is taking action?


(Note: For the purposes of this “Digging Deeper” analysis, we will focus specifically on teacher student and racial demographics—one of the few comparative attributes we can measure with publicly available data.)


What Does Research Say about the Benefits of Teacher Diversity?


A more diverse teacher workforce could help narrow the achievement gap. According to research evidence, placing students with teachers of the same ethnicity/race could have implications for closing the achievement gap:


Increasing access to high-level coursework: Research from the University of Colorado examining the Impact of Black Teacher Role Models on Rigorous Math Taking showed that black math teachers had a positive impact on the likelihood of a student enrolling in advanced math courses.


There are social and emotional advantages to having teacher diversity. According to the Brookings Institute, some of the social and emotional benefits include:

  • Higher expectations of students of color from teachers. A Harvard University study examined teacher bias and expectations as a self-fulfilling prophecy and found that teacher expectations on student behavior can be powerful influencers for student performance and aspirations. This could have positive implications for gifted and talented programs, where students of color are grossly underrepresented.
  • Teachers serving as advocates for students. Studies have shown that teachers of color serves as advocates and mentors for students of color by helping them navigate school culture.


What is the Current State of Educator Diversity In Delaware?

Delaware teachers and principals are less diverse than the students they serve. According to the Delaware Department of Education data, students of color represent more than half of Delaware’s student population while teachers of color comprise only about 14 percent of the teacher workforce. These gaps are also evident at the district level.

Who is taking action?

Diversifying Delaware’s educator workforce could positively impact student success. There is a growing body of research indicating that teacher diversity can have a positive impact on students’ academic achievement and social and emotional learning. Furthermore, action is underway to make Delaware’s—and the nation’s—teacher workforce more diverse.


  • Preparing more diverse teachers – The Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) and Delaware teacher preparation programs are working to increase the diversity of aspiring teachers. Diversity is a component of the new Teacher Prep Program Scorecards. Teacher prep programs are being scored on their efforts to recruit a more diverse student body. This year, the top three programs with the most diversity were Teach For America, Delaware Transitions to Teaching Partnership, and Alternative Routes to Certification. Each program’s proportion of non-white candidates was above 30 percent, while the state average is only 21 percent.


  • Delaware specific research and analysis – DDOE’s Delaware Talent Practices Report analyzes educator recruitment, hiring, and retention methods in Delaware schools. It also offers some best practices for recruitment of diverse teachers. The report advocates for districts to differentiate their strategies in recruiting diverse teacher candidates, and highlights best practices.



  • At the national level, teacher diversity has been addressed by the U.S. Department of Education through a series of programs and reports—the latest of which is highlighted here. The National Teacher Summit on Teacher Diversity was held in spring 2016, focusing on how to fill the teacher pipeline with more racially/ethnically diverse candidates. The summit also marked the release of The State of Racial Diversity in the Educator Workforce report, which highlights the lack of diversity in schools, makes the case for the benefits of a diverse teacher workforce, and even offers analyses of programs that are getting it right.

Digging Deeper: 4 Chronic Opportunity Gaps that High-Needs Kids Face

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From pre-k through postsecondary, many minority and “high-need” student populations miss out on critical milestones that would prepare them for postsecondary success. High-needs students may be classified as low-income, special education, or English language learners.

These four examples of chronic educational opportunity gaps illustrate how students are being left behind, why these gaps matter for Delaware students, and who are some of the groups taking action.


  1. The Word Gap


What it means for kids

Achievement gaps start before kindergarten. By age four, children from families on welfare are exposed to 30 million less words than children from middle- to high-income families. Differences in the size of a child’s vocabulary first appear at 18 months—and are correlated with education and income.

Delaware Data

Four out of 10 children younger than age six live in low-income households.


Who is taking action?

Delaware has made large investments in early learning, including a $22 million investment into raising the quality of and access to early learning programs. This investment also paved the way for Delaware’s winning Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant—which awarded the state almost $50 million in 2012. The Office of Early Learning created Delaware Stars for Early Success, which is a rating system that measures the environment and quality of early care and education. Today, access to high quality early learning programs has been boosted for all high needs groups—especially low-income kids. From 2011 to the present, low-income students served by high quality Stars programs has jumped from five percent to 70 percent.


  1. The Early Literacy Gap


What it means for kids

A child that reads on level in the third grade is more likely to graduate high school by age 19 than a child who does not. In fact, a child who can read on grade level by third grade is four times more likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who does not read proficiently by that time. An investment in early learning can reap benefits for third grade reading.

Delaware Data

According to the latest Smarter Assessment results on third grade English language arts, minority, low-income, special education, and English language learners are more likely to fall below their peers in English language arts.


Who is taking action?

The Delaware State Board of Education Literacy Campaign is one example of a statewide effort at increasing literacy. In addition to implementing birth-pre-K initiatives in coordination with the Office of Early Learning, this campaign also targets educator prep programs, licensure and certification standards, and getting the community involved through public awareness and advocacy to increase early literacy. There are also community-based programs aimed at furthering early literacy, such as the United Way of Delaware’s My Very Own Library program, which aims to support reading among Delaware students. My Very Own Library is a national organization supported by Scholastic that provides donations to communities across the country. Wilmington was among the few selected cities to participate in the program, where Scholastic partnered with the United Way of Delaware to give 30,000 books to 3,000 students.


  1. The High School Graduation Gap


What it means for kids

Kids who do not graduate from high school typically earn $8,000 less annually compared to those who do. A higher level of educational attainment is correlated with higher earnings and lower unemployment rates. For Delawareans in particular, a person who drops out of high school is two times more likely to live in poverty than a high school graduate, and six times as likely as a college graduate.

Delaware data

Despite Delaware’s growth in high school graduation rates, minority and high-need student populations are still below their peers in terms of graduation rates.


Who is taking action?

Delaware Pathways to Prosperity is a statewide program dedicated to ensuring that high school students are prepared for life after graduation—whether in college or the workforce. This summer, Governor Markell signed Executive Order 61, establishing a permanent steering committee that will guide the expansion of Pathways. The program contains 10 Career Pathways across the state that offer skills training for high-demand jobs.

Beyond state-level initiatives to increase career readiness among high school students, there are also innovative activities around shifting how teaching is performed in Delaware classrooms. The Rodel Teacher Council is a group of talented Delaware teachers who have led the work of scaling personalized learning models for schools. Personalized learning offers a new approach to education that moves away from the one-size-fits-all methodology towards individualized, student-centered learning. The Rodel Teacher Council produced the Blueprint for Personalized Learning in Delaware, which lays out the systemic changes that need to happen at the classroom, district, and state levels to better serve students using this model.


  1. The College Remediation Gap


What it means for kids

Enrollment in remedial courses increases the cost of college and decreases college completion. Remedial courses are not taken for credit toward a degree, but students must still pay tuition (or use financial aid) for them.

Delaware data

Four out of 10 Delaware high school graduates attending Delaware colleges are enrolled in remedial math and/or English courses. This gap is worse for minority and high-needs students.


Who is taking action?

There are efforts to curb remediation rates, particularly at the state level. The P-20 Council is an organization that aims to align Delaware’s education efforts from early childhood through postsecondary education. Recently, the P-20 Council established subcommittees on English and Math, focusing on lowering college remediation rates for Delaware students. Subcommittee meetings are open to the public.

The state also established the Foundations of College Math pilot—a course that supports high school seniors in learning the content needed for college-level math, helping students to avoid remedial math in college. A similar program is under development for English. The state recently won a $250,000 grant from USA Funds to create a Foundation of College English course, which will help high schoolers who are struggling in English language arts to avoid having to take remedial English in college.


How you can take action

  • Register for the 9th Annual Vision Coalition Conference on Education and join the conversation on how to improve the future of education in Delaware.
  • Learn about how new federal legislation impacts Delaware and get involved in the Delaware Department of Education’s stakeholder engagement process.
  • Explore Delaware Public Education at a Glance and other Rodel Resources that provide an overview of the Delaware Public Education landscape.

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