Archive for the ‘Teachers & Leaders’ Category

Digging Deeper: Early Childhood Educators are Woefully Underpaid

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More young Delawareans and their families are accessing high-quality early learning today than ever before, thanks to some key investments, collaboration, and leadership over the past several years. Today, more than 1,200 programs participate in the Star rating system. Eighty-three percent of low-income children—that’s more than 15,000 kids—are participating in highly rated Stars programs, up from five percent in 2011.

And while we know that educators are the most important in-school factors to student achievement, in Delaware and other places, we often don’t extend the same focus on professional support and development to early learning providers that we do to K-12 educators.

Early childhood professionals aren’t well paid—especially compared to K-12 educators.

This is according to a report released by the Delaware Department of Education on Delaware’s Early Childhood Teachers and Administrators. In fact, across the state, 75 percent of early learning professionals are paid an hourly wage. (The remaining 25 percent are paid an annual salary.)

The average early childhood worker makes just over $32,000 per year. However, this average is skewed by higher paid administrators and program directors. Typically, early childhood teachers earn even less than this figure, from hourly pay with no benefits.

In 2014-15, a full-time K-12 teacher made just over $59,000 annually—twice as much, according to the Department of Education—and received benefits, as well as  a shorter work day, planning time, professional development, and vacation, benefits most early childhood workers do not receive.

“I don’t think the average person knows that the person taking care of your child Monday through Friday in an early learning center makes less money than the person who served you your coffee at Starbucks,” says Michelle Shaivitz, executive director of The Delaware Association for the Education of Young Children (DEAEYC). “We need to know who’s in our classrooms teaching our children, and we need to know how we can help them succeed. Because if we’re not supporting them, we’re not supporting early learning at all.”

 

Only four out of 10 early learning professionals across the state have a bachelor’s degree or higher across the state. This is in contrast to K-12 teachers, who are (for the most part) required to hold a bachelor’s in their field, and where the pay schedule serves as incentive to increase their level of educational attainment. In fact, 61 percent have a graduate degree (2014-15).

But does educational attainment and pay affect early learning program quality? According to a report by the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council, it depends on the training program and of course the teachers themselves. The report recommended that all early childhood teachers (those teaching infants through kindergarten) hold a bachelor’s in early childhood.

Many researchers agree that professionals with a bachelor’s degree and specialized training in early childhood education and development are important to creating a high quality early learning program. However, some also note that not just any type of training will do. Programs that focus on developing supportive teacher-child relationships, direct teaching practicums, or interactions with children are better than programs that don’t.

According to a study by the Pew Center of the State, a well-trained teacher can have a positive effect on a young child’s learning experience and can improve teacher-child interactions, social and emotional growth, and cognitive skills.

Low pay can undermine quality as well. According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education, low pay means higher turnover and difficulty in attracting experienced staff with higher levels of education.

It also means that early learning professionals are more likely to be living in poverty. In fact, across all states the median yearly earnings of a worker with a family of three would make them eligible for public benefits, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called Food Stamps) benefits.

 

Early childhood professionals with bachelor’s degrees from high-quality programs can contribute mightily to a better learning experience for children. Some of the most important brain development of a child happens in these early years, and investments in early learning yield a very big return. Isn’t time we turn our attention to investing in early childhood professionals too?

Teaching in a Competency-Based Education Environment

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July 2017

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Teaching in a Competency-Based Education Environment

When I describe competency-based education to friends and family—students moving through education based on mastery of skill rather than seat time, lessons personalized to the individual, and students taking ownership of their learning — the reaction is generally “that sounds better.” Unless that friend or family member is a teacher, in which case a host of very good questions arise about the practicalities of teaching in a competency-based environment.

 

“I have 30 kids? Do I have to plan a different lesson plan for each of them?”

The answer to this is no. A learner-centered classroom doesn’t mean the teacher plans lessons for each student. Robin Kanaan, KnowledgeWorks Director of Teaching and Learning, explained that you don’t have individual lesson plans for every student: “Students co-determine with the teacher what learning targets they need to accomplish and how they could show evidence of their learning. This is possible through agency and equipping students to understand themselves as learners.”

Read More

Award Opportunities

Teacher Awards for Literacy (Deadline: September 15)
The Penguin Random House Teacher Awards for Literacy program recognizes the nation’s most dynamic and resourceful teachers who use their creativity to inspire and successfully instill a love of reading in students. Winners are awarded cash grants and book donations to help further their innovative reading programs and to disseminate them to other teachers around the country.
NEA Learning & Leadership Grants (Deadline: October 15)
These grants support National Education Association members who are public school teachers, public education support professionals, and/or faculty and staff in public institutions of higher education for one of the following two purposes: Grants to individuals fund participation in high-quality professional development experiences and grants to groups fund collegial study.TranspARTation Grants (Ongoing)
The TranspARTation Grant supports travel costs to Delaware arts and cultural institutions and venues so that students may attend events, performances, and exhibits that have high-quality arts components. TranspARTation applications are accepted on an ongoing basis but must be received at least six weeks prior to the field trip date.

Save the Date

 

2017 Delaware Estuary Watershed Teacher Workshop (Various locations, July 17-20)
Join Partnership for the Delaware Estuary for four days of exciting workshops. Come and learn interdisciplinary ways to translate the environmental experience to your classroom.

 

Reading Summit: Decoding Strategies for Literacy Development (Newark, August 16 – 17)
Participants will learn powerful strategies to teach essential skills necessary for strong fluency and comprehension. These strategies, when applied using an explicit, systematic and age-sensitive approach, rapidly improve grapheme-phonemic awareness, decoding, vocabulary, and spelling.

 

iNACOL Symposium (Orlando, October 23 – 25)
iNACOL’s annual conference is the industry’s leading event for K-12 competency-based, blended, and online learning. Experts, practitioners, educators, policymakers, and researchers gather and work to transform education. This year’s theme is “Personalizing Learning: Equity, Access, Quality.”

 

DelawareCAN Educators of Color Monthly Meetup (Wilmington, Multiple Dates)
DelawareCAN: The Delaware Campaign for Achievement Now is hosting its monthly educators of color council meetup. Come connect with other educators of color across the state and learn about opportunities to make your voice heard about Delaware’s education system.

Must Read Stories

Did You Know?

Academics are critical, but so is a child’s social and emotional development. Strong academics will always be central in Delaware schools but in a rapidly changing world, it’s becoming increasingly important that young people receive a holistic educational experience that maximizes who they are as individuals—one that instills skills like communication, collaboration, critical thinking, empathy, and creativity.

 

This concept of developing “social and emotional learning” (SEL)—a phrase that’s often cross-referenced with “whole child”—is not a new one. Generations of educators have said that the so-called soft skills mentioned above are all important ingredients in child development.

In Delaware, it’s exciting to see a renewed focus and collaboration on social-emotional learning. We have created a webpage that combines national and state data and initiatives underway in order to inform ongoing conversations about SEL in Delaware. This list is not comprehensive, and we encourage you to share additional resources with us on Twitter by using the hashtag #SELinDE.

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Budget Woes Dominate Legislative Session

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The Delaware General Assembly ended its session this year on an interesting quirk and plenty of frustration. After going past the June 30 budget deadline for the first time in decades, the legislative session officially concluded in the early morning hours of July 2nd, after a required extended time window, and a contentious budget negotiation. In years past, education policy issues have dominated the legislature’s agenda, but a sizable deficit and tense budget negotiations resulted in an attention shift.

Delaware’s tough financial outlook, plagued by revenue shortfalls, dominated the activity in the legislature. The negotiations became so difficult that the General Assembly did not adopt a budget during its marathon last day of session, instead coming back on July 2nd to adopt a final budget.

When the FY 2018 budget was signed on July 3rd by Governor John Carney, it included significant implications to education.

  • While the State Board of Education was not eliminated, as was originally proposed in March, all of its funding was cut. This leaves an unclear future for the State Board given the potential loss of its operating staff.
  • Within School District Operations, there was a reduction of $26 million that will be effective on July 1st. District and charters will submit reductions plans to the Department of Education and the Office of Management and Budget by October 31 to define how they will implement these cuts to their operations budget. The reduction in funds will be allocated proportionally to districts and charter schools based on the Division 1 unit count.
  • The Teacher Leader Pilot program—which aimed to support educator career paths and inform instructional practice—was eliminated, resulting in an overall reduction to Teacher Compensation Reform in the amount of $800,000.
  • After facing both proposed cuts and increases throughout session, early childhood initiatives, which includes tiered reimbursements, or higher payments for programs that reach higher levels of quality in the Delaware Stars Quality Rating and Improvement System, were funded at $4.3 million more than FY17. However, it is unclear at this time exactly how resources will be directed based on the following epilogue language: “For FY18, no new program applications will be accepted and all current Delaware Stars for Early Success participants at S Levels 2, 3 and 4 will be held at their current level.”
  • College Access programs—like dual-enrollment sub-grants, PSAT sessions, and College Application Month—were considered for significant reductions. While some scholarship funds were ultimately eliminated, the programs saw only a $100,000 cut once the dust finally settled on the budget.
  • Finally, $1 million has been allocated to provide Opportunity Grants. This funding will provide up to 10 competitive sub-grants to districts and charters for the purpose of providing integrated student services and trauma-informed supports to low-income students or to providing other additional supports to low-income and English language learner students based on the needs of those students during the 2017-18 school year.

Several other items were reduced, including World Language Expansion, Parents as Teachers, Department of Education staffing, and pass-throughs to programs at institutions of higher education.

While the budget took up most of the spotlight, several other education-related bills gained attention.

Multiple bills were introduced to curb high school dropout rates. Rep. Sean Matthews pursued HB23, which requires any student who wishes to drop out before the age of 16 to complete an exit interview, along with their parents and school personnel, to review the disadvantages to not having a high school diploma. Parents would then have to provide written consent. This bill passed overwhelmingly, and was subsequently signed into law by Gov. Carney. Several other dropout prevention bills were introduced this year but did not make it to the governor’s desk. Ideas included raising the minimum age of school attendance (HB17 and HB55) and reducing truancy by requiring a parent conference after a student misses five days of school (HB 24).

School choice was also a key issue.

  • Kim Williams leads the Enrollment Preferences Task Force and is committed to acting on the recommendations outlined in their Report. To address geographic enrollment preferences, Rep. Williams pursued a controversial bill, HS 1 to HB 85, to remove a provision that gives preference to students who reside within a five-mile radius of a charter school. Detractors of this bill cite concerns of discrimination. While the bill would open up more options for students and families, it would not change the enrollment preference for applicants who live in the geographically contiguous part of the school’s district. This means that in-demand schools like Newark Charter School could give preference to enrollees who live in the Newark part of the Christina School District—but would not have to extend the same advantage to applicants who live in the Wilmington section of the district. While Newark Charter School is only one of the schools utilizing the five-mile preference it received most of the attention. This bill passed both the House and the Senate and currently awaits the governor’s signature.
  • As a follow-up, Rep. Williams introduced HB 269, which aligns the timelines, processes, and procedures for choice for school districts, vocational-technical school districts, and charter schools. This bill was introduced late in the session and will be considered in early 2018.

And, a bill addressing new educators and educator candidates came forward. In 2016, Sen. David Sokola sponsored SB 199 which created a one-year “provisional” license for teacher applicants who have not yet met the performance assessment requirement. The bill basically increased the time that an educator is considered to be a “novice,” from a three-year time period to a four-year time period. The intention was to allow additional mentoring supports for Delaware’s early career educators and to enable more high-quality teachers to enter our local workforce through other states and alternative teacher training models. This session, Rep. Williams introduced HS1 for HB143, which aims to remove the provisional license and re-establish the three-tiered licensure system. Some districts claimed the one-year requirement to complete a performance assessment placed a burden on out-of-state applicants and caused difficulty in hiring. Under the new three-tiered system, an initial license provides two years for the licensee to obtain a passing score on an approved performance assessment and eliminates the general knowledge exam. This bill has been signed by the governor.

Not surprisingly, school finance was also a recurring theme.

  • Earl Jaques proposed SCR 39, which will create a task force to study school district consolidation. There are questions about how much money consolidation would really save, but the task force will spend the fall researching possible answers, including whether or not consolidation is feasible and if so, how we might proceed.
  • As taxpayers across the Delaware continue tightening their belts, school districts are finding increasingly harder to pass referendums. In response, Rep. Jaques proposed legislation (HB 213) to allow school districts to raise taxes simply by the rate of inflation without having to seek a referendum. This legislation did not move forward and remains in the House Education Committee in hopes of being worked when the legislature returns in January 2018.

For the third straight year, Rep. John Kowalko pursued an “opt-out” bill. This session, HB 60 would’ve allowed parents to hold their children out of the statewide annual assessment. While the bill was considered in the House Education Committee, it failed to gain the necessary votes to be released to the full House for consideration.

This is only a snapshot of the action in the legislature this past year. Reference this appendix for a full list of education-related bills, and be sure to visit our Legislative Monitor. We also encourage you to join the conversation and become an advocate in Delaware public education. Attend a meeting of one of the many education-related committees underway. Scheduled meetings can be found on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar.

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