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10 Things We Heard from Gov. Carney’s State of the State Address

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As Gov. John C. Carney delivered his (technically first-ever) State of the State address last week, the Rodel team listened intently for any mentions of public education.


Here’s what we heard:


  • Not surprisingly, Gov. Carney led off with the economy. He mentioned some positive steps in tackling the state’s mountainous budgetary issues, including the newly formed Prosperity Partnership, and others.


Naturally his first mention of education arrived tethered to the economy. The governor touted workforce development—and particularly the work of Delaware Pathways—as a major key to improving outcomes on the business ledger and in citizens’ quality of life.


“Investing in the workforce will pay dividends for years to come,” he said, pointing to increased investments in institutes of high education like Delaware Technical Community College, and nonprofits like Zip Code Wilmington.



And he spoke about the still-to-be-finalized plans surrounding the Christina School District—which the governor referred to as “the most difficult thing we will do during this administration, and the most important”—including capital upgrades, early learning centers and parent supports, raised teacher salaries, and smaller class sizes.


  • Speaking of early learning, Carney spoke to the need for deeper investments there, including additional funding to continue to grow and expand the Delaware STARs system in the FY19 budget.

  • The governor touted the success of math coaches in various schools across the state (especially since, as he pointed out, math skills are important for the future workforce), saying he’ll look to increase their numbers in the years to come.


  • And he circled back to Opportunity Grants, which helped provide a range of services to schools statewide, saying he’ll propose to triple the number of schools receiving that financial boost.


  • Carney seemed to emphasize social and emotional learning, saying, “We’ve put a greater emphasis on coordination among state agencies tasked with serving our most vulnerable citizens.” He specifically mentioned implementing a set of recommendations from a Centers for Disease Control report, which aims to reduce youth violence in Wilmington. A good first start for Delaware, he said, will be helping various agencies better share data, and target resources where they’re needed most.

  • On teachers, Carney called them the most important job we have, and said he plans to hire 200 new teachers to match student enrollment growth (which is required by state code). He also mentioned working alongside Rep. David Bentz, Sen. Bryan Townsend, and the DSEA, to create a student loan forgiveness program for educators that will help the state retain educators in our highest need schools and in the highest demand subject areas.


  • He thanked his wife Tracey for stewarding grant funding from the Casey Family Foundation, which, through local hospitals, Delaware Division of Family Services, the Division of Public Health, the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, and the Office of Child Advocate, will launch Delaware Healthy Outcomes with Parent Engagement, or DE HOPE, designed to help substance exposed infants.


  • The new statewide library card campaign, which aims to deliver social services to more communities, got a brief shout-out.



As we anticipate a first-draft budget next week, Gov. Carney’s punchiest line of the day—“the state of the state is strong, and getting stronger”—will be put to the test. Stay tuned.

Remember ESSA? Work Still Underway on State Plan

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The confirmation of Betsy DeVos (and surrounding controversies) as U.S. Secretary of Education dominated news headlines and social media over the last few weeks. However, this national headline may be drowning out what’s happening locally, as Delaware continues to develop its state plan for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)—a plan that will shape the framework of our school system for years to come.

Here are six things you should know about work underway in Delaware to affect education policy:

1. State-level policy decisions matter since states have autonomy and a great deal of latitude to decide how to implement federal education law, and Delaware is in the process of developing a plan. In December 2015, the education policy landscape shifted. Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act—the largest piece of federal legislating governing federal dollars that support K-12 public education. The new federal law increased local autonomy, giving states more flexibility and control over the use of federal funds. States were immediately charged with developing local state plans for the implementation of the new legislation.

2. Delaware’s planning and stakeholder engagement process began last year. Starting in the summer of 2016, the Delaware Department of Education launched a stakeholder engagement process to solicit input and feedback on Delaware’s state ESSA plan, with the intent to submit to the U.S. Department of Education in the spring of 2017. The process has involved: consultation meetings with selected stakeholder groups, community conversations, public surveys, technical discussion groups, and an ESSA Advisory Committee (created through Executive Order 62).

3. Delaware has a solid foundation to build on. The Rodel Foundation is a member of the Vision Coalition of Delaware, which produced Student Success 2025, a plan developed with input from over 4,000 Delawareans. Student Success 2015 is aligned with the ESSA provisions and requirements. It helped plant a seed about thinking more holistically about measuring student success, and we’ve seen that reflected in both the draft state plan and stakeholder feedback about how we could improve our system accountability and supports.

4. People across the state recognize the opportunity to leverage ESSA to accelerate progress in Delaware schools and are seizing opportunities to engage, and the Delaware Department of Education has incorporated feedback from the Advisory Council and other groups into the latest draft plan. For example:

  • Expanded accountability metrics to include more holistic measures of student success like chronic absenteeism, and continuing to elicit additional feedback about which proposed measures should impact accountability versus public reporting
  • Decreased the proposed n-count (the minimum number of students required for the purposes of accountability and student privacy) from 30 to 15
  • Considering ALL SCHOOLS when identifying Comprehensive Support and Improvement Schools (CSI), not just Title I schools
  • Exploring EL growth and attainment targets based on sound research

However, there are still details that need to be worked out. Just last week, The 74 published an article about the concerns of some critics (Read: In Delaware, Critics Worry That ESSA Plans Will Give Low-Performing Schools Too Much Wiggle Room).

5. Rodel has taken action to develop informational resources and partner with business, community, and teacher groups to provide meaningful feedback on draft plans.

  • Supporting stakeholder engagement efforts by publishing informational briefs and resources on the meaningful ESSA requirements that Delaware education leaders, parents, and community members should know about and discuss as the state develops is plan to implement the new law.
  • Partnering with 24 business and community organizations to collectively publish a letter providing feedback and recommendations on the first draft plan, such as holding districts accountable for the overall portfolio of schools within their management and oversight.
  • Elevating teacher voices. Six teacher leaders—members of the Rodel Teacher Council developed recommendations for policymakers and published an opinion letter encouraging fellow teachers to shape state education policy.

6. The deadline for submitting the state plan is April. It’s not too late to weigh-in. Unless new leadership at the federal and state level upset the existing timeline, the Delaware Department of Education will present a draft of the state at the March 16th State Board of Education Meeting, and submit a final draft to the U.S. Department of Education in early April.

Joe Makes Me Proud to be a Delawarean, and an American

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While we usually reserve these posts for educational issues, today I wanted to give a shout out to Delaware’s Joe Biden and the full slate of leaders in Delaware that spoke at his welcome home celebration.

On this rainy Friday, I needed to go down to the convention center by the Wilmington train station at two in the afternoon. This is not usual. I don’t take a lot of time out of the office, but I had to go.

In pop-up fashion, there was an event at the Chase Center to welcome home Jill and Joe. I had only heard of it the day before and had to juggle meetings to get down there. My wife called me late morning and said she was going too. We weren’t alone.

Even though I went to UD and I’ve lived here for more than a dozen years, I’m still a transplant. Even so, I am one of the millions who love Joe.

One reason for that love is that Joe genuinely cares about people. I experienced that one summer day in 2015. It was just after tragic death of Beau Biden, one of Joe’s two sons. Joe and the rest of the Biden family were holding a memorial service about a half-mile from my house at St. Anthony’s Church. The family was scheduled to receive mourners for a few hours. Long lines were forming around the building several hours before the church doors opened. The Biden family stayed and received people for at least double the originally allotted time without a break for dinner, and the line never seemed to diminish.

My wife was one of the people that waited in that line. After a couple of hours, she made it to Joe and gave him a hug and was looking to move on when he asked her about her dad, Sid Balick. Sid had given Joe his first job as a lawyer some 40 years prior. She relayed that his health was failing and that he couldn’t have waited in this line. Joe called over a secret service officer and directed him to help my wife get her dad in the church. She went home, got her dad, who wasn’t steady on his feet, and they were expedited in through a side door.

Joe’s eyes lit up when he saw him. He gave Sid a hug and a kiss on the cheek, and said, “you’re still the best lawyer in Delaware.” I watched in amazement that in the depths of his own despair, Joe had the presence of mind, and genuine compassion, to be thinking of others in such a profound way.  Beyond that, as I sat and watched, it seemed that he had a story, a laugh and a real hug for just about every person on that line.

Given that this past Monday we honored Martin Luther King, it seems fitting to quote him in regard to our vice president. King once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” In a time that would have crushed most of us, Joe stood tall and reached down to comfort someone else.

In his comments today, through some emotional moments of joy and appreciation, the vice president spoke of America’s indomitable spirit and his genuine interest in supporting the new administration. His close was, “When I die, Delaware will be written on my heart.”

So, that’s why all of us had to go down to the train station today. For all the love and respect Joe Biden has shown to others, several thousand of us had to be there for him. Our full U.S. delegation (including Senators Carper and Coons, who had been in D.C. for the morning inauguration and had to go back for some votes that afternoon) was amazing in their tributes as were our new mayor and governor and Joe’s sister, Valerie.  The love in that room was through the roof. The national guard was there to greet the Bidens, as was the UD marching band, some amazing gospel singers and thousands of regular people holding signs and occasionally shouting, “I love you Joe!”

In this time of political polarization, I was proud to be a Delawarean, and proud to be an American.

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