Archive for the ‘Digging Deeper’ Category

Digging Deeper: Student Need Grows as Budgets Shrink

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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.


Delaware’s budget crisis has taken quite a toll on education and the state as a whole. At the same time, student needs are growing, with some of our highest-need populations (low-income students, English learners, and students with disabilities) increasing at a faster rate than ever.


With changing demographics and the expanding role of the public school system, students are going to need all the resources they can get. At the same time, alarming achievement gaps still remain, indicating we aren’t funding schools in a way that meets the unique needs of individual students and the added needs of English learners or students in poverty.


As schools and districts brace for possible programmatic and personnel cuts, there’s no time like the present to seriously reassess Delaware’s education financing system. Fewer teachers and less quality programming might save money, but it won’t deliver an excellent and equitable educational opportunity to all students.


In the last decade, Delaware’s high-need student population has increased sharply.


Over the past 10 years, total enrollment has increased by 11 percent—with huge increases in special education and English learners.

The low-income student population has dropped by more than 28,000 students after the state changed the methodology for determining low-income status. While the calculation determining which families are deemed low-income has changed, it does not mean that there are fewer students living in poverty.


Today, more than one-third of students are low-income.


In other words almost 50,000 out of about 136,000 students enrolled in Delaware public schools as classified as low-income, and nearly 20,000 are special education.

While it appears as that English learners populate a small proportion of the total student population—it’s important to remember that they are also the fastest growing. In fact, in some counties, English learners constitute nearly 10 percent of public school students.


Sussex County holds the highest proportion of low-income and English learners.

We know disadvantaged students need more resources.


We also know that investing in education benefits students—and society as a whole. This is especially true for students living in poverty, where an investment into evidence-based programs could have implications for student outcomes, according to a report on from the United States Department of Education’s Equity and Excellence Commission. English learning students are in the same boat, where more resources are needed for teachers and tools that can ensure their success. Also, while students with disabilities do get more funding, often a lack of flexibility in that funding still means that these students are being left behind.


In this budget crisis, we need to maintain investments in education now more than ever, especially for our most vulnerable students.


A plan to transition Delaware’s inequitable funding system is long overdue for students living in poverty and English learners. Delaware’s 70-year-old funding formula doesn’t account for the full range of student needs and simply doesn’t reflect the diversity of our modern-day student population.

Digging Deeper: Why Graduation Rates Don’t Tell the Whole Story

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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.


It may be stating the obvious, but a high school diploma is not the sole determinant of student success. Instead, we usually need to examine a student’s entire academic career—from kindergarten through 12th grade—to get a picture of how well prepared they are to pursue their interests after high school.

Likewise, disparities in academic achievement can offer insight into why low-income and minority students fall often behind their peers—and expose areas for intervention so all students have the best chance to pursue whichever options they choose after high school.

Diplomas matter, but higher educational attainment also has serious implications for students’ future.

Students of color and low-income students are more likely to miss the opportunities educational attainment brings. This includes higher earnings, lower unemployment rates, health benefits, and being more active citizens. However, without intervention, goals for increasing educational attainment are not likely to be reached, according to research by Complete College America and State Higher Education Executive Officers. The OECD also states that targeting inequities in education reform pays off in the form of better employment and more contribution to society and the economy.

The metrics below show that disparities in academic achievement appear as early as elementary and middle school and extend through high school and into college. By taking into consideration these other metrics, in addition to graduation rates, we will find opportunities for earlier intervention to improve the chances for success amongst students of color and low-income students in K-12.

Large achievement gaps exist between students of color and low-income students and their white and not low-income peers—some over 20 percentage points. These gaps persist throughout all grade levels.

Smarter Balanced and SAT scores reveal staggering disparities among minority and low-income students in both math and English Language Arts. Delaware students take Smarter Balanced in grades three through eight, allowing plenty of time for early identification of struggling students.

All 11th grade students in Delaware take the SAT during the school day, offering a good measure of which students are on track for graduation and postsecondary life. SAT proficiency—a term used to describe meeting or exceeding the standard on the math and reading SAT—is a predictor for college readiness.

Delaware graduation rates are fairly high—but so are remediation rates amongst minority and low-income students.

Despite a persistent disparity, the gaps in high school graduation between students of color and low-income students and their white, wealthier peers are closing. However, college remediation rates tell a different story—that many students of color and low-income students are not ready for academic life after high school. Remedial courses do not provide credits towards a degree, but still require students to pay tuition. Minority and disadvantaged students’ remediation rates are much higher than the state average.

Closing the Gap: Solutions for increasing educational attainment for students of color and low-income students

Disparities in educational achievement throughout K-12 can be rectified through targeted interventions.

  • Empower students earlier in their academic career to make informed decisions about their futures such as getting early college credit, enrolling in a career pathway, or gaining work-based learning and leadership experience.
  • Adequately prepare students for life after high school by ensuring they are gaining access to career and technical education courses, which provide a disproportionate benefit to low-income students who specialize in a specific trade, according to the Fordham Institute.
  • Provide targeted interventions before 11th grade for students not meeting college-ready benchmarks.
  • Create an equitable K-12 education system by addressing disparities in student achievement and access to opportunity.
    • Advocate for policy changes and pilot programs to support student-centered learning
    • Advocate for changes in the funding system, so that low-income and other disadvantaged students receive equitable funding.

 Other ways to get involved:

  • Start early. Advocate for policies to support third grade literacy. A child who reads on grade level by third grade
  • Employers and business owners can build partnerships with Delaware Pathways, where they can host students in work-based learning experiences and help inform the pathways curriculum.
  • Parents and community leaders can mentor on the SPARC platform.
  • Students can develop their Student Success Plan and do interest inventories, skills assessments, college searches, career searches, resume building, or interact with mentors and business leaders on the SPARC platform.

March 2017 Teacher Newsletter

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Teacher Voice & Opportunities to Support Students

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Teacher Voice & Opportunities to Support Students

The Rodel Teacher Council Wants To Hear From You

The Rodel Teacher Council is studying social and emotional learning (SEL) in Delaware and the nation and needs your input! Please take 15 minutes to share your knowledge of, attitudes, and beliefs toward SEL through this online survey. Individual responses will be kept confidential and will not be attributed to individuals.


Your responses will be compiled to create a clearer picture for educators and policymakers of what practices and programs are happening now and what else might be needed to make sure every child is supported socially, emotionally, and academically. The survey closes on March 17.

Complete The Survey Here

Conference Opportunities &
Requests for Input

Early Career Teacher Survey (Survey Closes Mar. 10)
Delaware’s Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellow, Robyn Howton, is conducting a brief survey of second and third year teachers to better understand their experiences. The purpose of the survey is to better understand how teacher preparation programs can prepare teacher candidates for the realities of the classroom. After completing the six question survey, fill out the subsequent form for the opportunity to win one of three $50 Amazon gift cards.
Delaware’s 23rd Annual Inclusion Conference (Mar. 15, Dover)
The ​Inclusion ​Conference ​is ​designed ​to ​address ​the ​needs ​of ​educators, ​parents, ​policymakers, ​service ​providers, ​and ​child ​care ​providers ​involved ​with ​or ​interested ​in ​promoting ​inclusion ​for ​all ​from ​birth ​to ​21.

2017 LRNG Innovators Challenge (Applications due Mar. 16)
LRNG Innovators has a new grant challenge, inviting educators to imagine engaging ways to help young people explore their interests, igniting a passion that can lead to college, to a career, or having a positive impact on their community. Proposals may include programs, curricula, or projects that actively assist youth to discover interests connecting the spheres of their lives, both in and out of school, and provide potential future opportunities.

3rd Annual Delaware Pathways Conference (Mar. 29, Wilmington)
Partners throughout Delaware are collaborating to help students prepare for life after graduation. Join leaders from business, education, and state and community organizations at the Annual Delaware Pathways Conference, and explore how Delaware’s workforce system is to guiding young people toward meaningful career and postsecondary experiences. Attendees will hear from legislators on the future of Delaware Pathways; business leaders who offer work-based learning opportunities; community organizations who are focusing on programs for youth; and students who will share their Pathways stories.

Blended and Personalized Learning Conference (Mar. 31, Providence, RI)
This event is a chance for educators and leaders to discuss blended learning as it exists today on the ground – both in terms of the day-to-day implementation in blended classrooms, and the strategies and systems that have effectively supported replication and scale across schools and districts. Hosted by the Highlander Institute with program support from the Christensen Institute and the Learning Accelerator, the Blended and Personalized Learning Conference enjoys strong endorsements from the education community.

Making A Difference Conference (Mar. 31, Dover)
The Delaware Association for the Education of Young Children partners each spring with Delaware Head Start Association (DHSA), with support from Delaware Department of Education for the annual Making A Difference in Early Childhood: A Conference for Early Childhood Professionals.

ECET2 Delaware Recap
Educators from all across Delaware descended on the DelTech Terry Campus for a day of teacher-led training and celebration.

The first-ever ECET2 Delaware: Connecting Innovative Educators brought together teachers from across the state for an inspirational and empowering day of teacher-led and teacher-focused programming.

Over the course of six hours, attendees celebrated teacher leadership, learned about innovative classroom practices, explored technology in the classroom at the demo lab, and built connections with other educators. All sessions were led by teachers.

ECET2 stands for Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers. Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Teacher 2 Teacher, the national movement has spurred more than 111 regional convenings in 27 host states, and over 19,000 teachers have attended an ECET2 event.

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