Archive for the ‘ESSA’ Category

Digging Deeper: Five Ways Delaware’s Funding System Doesn’t Add Up

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Delaware invests more than a billion dollars a year in public education, but our state’s method for allocating dollars, many argue, raises serious questions about transparency, efficiency, and equity. The questions aren’t going away, either. Delaware’s public education spending has only grown over the years as student enrollment continues to climb.

That’s not all. Here are just five ways Delaware’s funding system doesn’t add up.

  1. Delaware’s funding system is over 70 years old

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That isn’t the case for a funding system created when schools were still racially segregated, when there were no federal protections for students with disabilities, and when computers weren’t part of everyday life. Classrooms are not the same as they were in the 1940s. Students’ academic and non-academic needs are growing—just as technology has transformed the way teaching and learning occur. Delaware’s restrictive funding system hinders personalized learning models where technology and innovative classroom models put students in the driver’s seat of their own learning.

  1. Spending is not transparent—for parents or for advocates

In a Vision Coalition statewide poll on education, 69 percent of Delawareans agree that it is too hard to find information about how tax dollars are spend in the education system. Only 27 percent agree that they could find information they needed on how tax dollars are spent.

To date, Delaware does not report education spending at the school-level within traditional districts. Public reporting of education spending is limited to online school profiles, which show state and district average per pupil expenditures, and the state’s open checkbook, which lists and displays all financial transactions in the state. For the average parent or taxpayer, it’s unclear exactly how schools are receiving and spending education dollars, or whether schools serving high populations of low-income students are getting the resources they need to provide a high-quality education.

  1. The money does not follow students

The state distributes most funds based on prescriptive and inflexible units—or fixed staff positions. Despite the fact that student ratios undergird the unit system, there is no set dollar amount for each individual student, as there is in most other states. Instead, one unit enables districts to hire based on teachers’ level of education and experience. This means that the same student, with the same needs, could “earn” different amounts of money from the state depending on where they go to school. And custodians, secretaries, and administrators monies are allocated based on such outlandish measures such as the number of classrooms, auditorium seating capacity, swimming pools, or the size of central heating and air.

  1. Inflexibility = inefficiency

Funds received through the unit count generally cannot be used as cash for other purposes. Only around eight percent of funding is truly flexible. Less rigidity could result in savings for schools through smarter spending, such a contracting out services or using allocated funds to meet specific student needs—something that is already happening in Delaware charter schools.

  1. Our current system is unfair to students

Our current funding system disproportionately disadvantages low-income students, students with disabilities, and English learner students. Students with higher needs don’t get more money allocated to them, even though we know it takes more resources to adequately educate these students. English learners and low-income students are consistently underserved, as indicated by academic outcomes (see Delaware Public Education at a Glance) yet have zero dedicated state funding. The system even has barriers for students with disabilities, as illustrated in this infographic. The result of this inequitable system is a large portion of our high-needs students (up to one-third of the entire public school population in the case of low-income students) are not fully benefiting from our current public education funding formula.

Delaware can build a better system. Here’s how:

  1. Update the funding system and base it on student needs. A foundation system or weighted student funding system allocates money for each student, with additional funds for high-need students (low-income students, students with disabilities, and English learners). A majority of states use this type of system—though not all provide extra funding for all the high-need categories we listed here.
  2. Create more flexibility for schools and districts by allowing them to determine how to best use education dollars. Offer training for school and district leaders to make informed decisions on how to best use flexible dollars.
  3. Build transparency into the system. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) offers an opportunity for states to become more transparent in how funding looks at the school level, if implemented consistently across the state. A more simplified system where money follows students will allow for schools and districts to estimate the amount of funding they will receive and make it easier for parents and taxpayers to see the impact of public education investments.

Three Things To Know about Delaware State Tests

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It is that time of year again—the release of Smarter Assessment and SAT results. The Delaware Department of Education officially released data in late July. While reactions were mixed (see the official release from DDOE, as well as The News Journal’s reaction), we tried to look behind the numbers to shed a bit more light on the results.

 

  1. 1,300 more students scored proficient in Smarter Math.

And about 250 more students were proficient in reading this year. However, we should note that overall public school enrollment grew by about 1,000 students in the last two school years—from 136,000 in 2015-16 to 137,000 in 2016-17. It stands to reason that the more students taking the test would increase overall student proficiency data.

 

  1. State math and ELA proficiency averages were unexciting.

Smarter math proficiency only went up one percent from last year, and ELA actually dropped one percent. Still, over time we see an increase in proficiency since the test was first implemented in 2015.

Smarter Math Achievement Levels (2017)

 

 

Smarter ELA Achievement Levels (2017)

 

  

  1. Despite the underwhelming numbers, there were some standouts—and disappointments.

 

Though so-called “priority schools” saw varied achievement level results, in a two-year window Laurel Middle School saw a 24-percent increase in math proficiency and a 19 percent increase in ELA proficiency.

Middle grades (fifth and sixth) statewide also exhibited dramatic jumps in proficiency levels for math and reading.

Unfortunately, third grade reading proficiencies have dropped two points since 2015.

 

SAT results were relatively stagnant for reading and writing, with a small drop in math. Math remains a challenge for Delaware, with less than one third of high schoolers being college and career ready in math.

What does it all mean?

 

As we’ve noted before, the Smarter Assessment is tough by design. It is not the average multiple-choice test. It requires students to complete performance tasks and think critically, reflecting the challenges students will face in college or the workplace.

 

There are other measures of student performance. In 2017-18, schools will begin to measure growth in student achievement as well. That is, we will begin to see what percentage of students are moving from below standard to meeting or exceeding the standard, rather than just our current measure of the percentage meeting the standard. To see more on how Delaware will be measuring student achievement and other accountability metrics, see the recently approved ESSA plan.

 

We should focus on the whole student, not just the test. Statewide test scores are important, but they are just one of many indicators of student success. While Delaware makes progress across other areas (like graduation rates, early college and career experience, workforce participation), there continues to be a need for cultivating the social and emotional development of our students. To see more on how social and emotional learning can impact students, check out our Social and Emotional Learning page.

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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Personalized Learning Tip of the Month

This playbook shares the findings of three researchers who set off to discover what K–12 schools can learn from the best-run organizations in America.

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