Archive for the ‘Elections’ Category

Civics 101: From SNL to DCF

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On the heels of the midterm elections, I was reminded of what divides us. In  the subsequent weeks, I was reminded of what brings us together.

 

While the election results painted a picture of a nation divided, we all breathed a healthy, collective sigh of relief knowing  the constant barrage of negative campaign ads were subsiding. And as I sit here today, I feel optimistic about our ability to come together.

 

Two examples.

 

A couple of weeks ago, “Saturday Night Live” comedian Pete Davidson poked fun at the appearance of Dan Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL and Republican representative-elect in Texas, who happens to wear an eyepatch. The joke—which was roundly criticized online—could have made for another flashpoint in our ever-growing culture wars; click bait for those of us who thrive on controversy between the left and right.

 

But instead, Crenshaw stepped back, and on Veterans Day weekend, he appeared on SNL to return some pot-shots at Davidson and to make a larger point about “never forgetting” those who have served, including Davidson’s dad.

 

 

In an opinion letter he wrote to the Washington Post, Crenshaw said, “…people too often attack not just an idea, but also the supposed intent behind the idea.” His goal, to help create a more civil society where those of differing opinions can exchange those ideas without demonizing their opponent. Novel concept.

 

And just last night, I got a chance to attend a Delaware Community Foundation (DCF) event and hear Robert Putnam, the author of several books about the health of our democracy, the most recent being the New York Times bestseller, “Our Kids.”

 

From the Baby Grand in Wilmington, Putnam laid out in stark terms the growing divide between those on the right and the wrong side of the tracks—the  rich and the poor—and  made a compelling case for why we as a community need to think of all kids as our kids. While the data on his various “scissor graphs” painted a picture in which those who are poor (and predominantly black and Hispanic) are facing increasingly high hills to climb to get out of poverty, I left inspired to act more deeply in our local community.

 

The mix of people and the energy in the room was combustible. I left that experience ready to roll up my sleeves and double down on the civil society we want to create, right here. It’s a passion that’s shared by DCF’s president and CEO Stuart Comstock-Gay, who wrote in the News Journal last week, “There’s an incredible revitalized energy in Wilmington right now. New businesses are opening. Job opportunities are emerging.  The city’s reputation is growing among entrepreneurs nationwide. Opportunity abounds. As a community, and for the good of our community, we need to ensure that everybody at least has a chance to get in on this excitement and growth.”

 

So, thanks SNL and DCF for helping me lift my head above the noise.

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.

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