Archive for the ‘Teachers & Leaders’ Category

Growing Early Learning to Meet Growing Needs: Q&A with Sec. Susan Bunting

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Delaware’s Secretary of Education, Dr. Susan Bunting, has a penchant for quality early learning. The Selbyville native, who previously helmed one of the state’s largest districts in Indian River, is a firm believer in the powers of high-quality pre-K. It’s why she helped spearhead the acclaimed Project V.I.L.L.A.G.E. program for four-year-olds who came from low-income Indian River families.

We caught up with Sec. Bunting to talk Project V.I.L.L.A.G.E., and her early learning priorities as the head of Delaware’s educational efforts.

 

As a lifelong educator, parent, and grandparent, tell us about your experience with children who get high-quality learning experiences before they get to kindergarten.

 

It can be hard to separate my parent/grandparent and educator selves, but in both areas, I see the need for children to be ready for kindergarten to be able to maximize what happens when they get there.

 

My mother was an educator, so I think this was always bred into me. I am one of those people who was reading to babies in utero and to infants.

 

We see the impact of high-quality learning before children get to kindergarten—the vocabulary of children who are read to and spoken with, and those who have context about what they are reading so they can understand the story and the ideas.

 

The children who have had some preschool experience are oriented to school, to a schedule, to finishing a task, and how to interact with each other. While the children who have no experience are not as well prepared. Without something miraculous happening, the gap these children enter with is something that persists throughout their lives.

 

What can you tell us about your approach and prioritization as Secretary of Education when it comes to early childhood education? Where would you like to see us go as a state?

 

I am particularly focused on what happens before kindergarten, because for those who have high-quality experiences, their transition is so much easier.

 

I would like to see Delaware make sure all students are entering with the skills they need to be ready to learn.

 

In addition, I am particularly concerned about the economically challenged child that might not otherwise have an early learning experience.

One of the success stories you were known for as Indian River’s superintendent was Project V.I.L.L.A.G.E. How did that program come to be? And, how did it inform your perspective on early learning?

 

When I was in the Indian River School District, we had the opportunity to apply for an Early Childhood Assistance Program (ECAP) [Delaware’s state funded pre-K program for four-year-olds from low-income families] grant. We didn’t have anyone to run it, so I was the administrator who ran the program, registered children, and oversaw the staff. And, to our board’s credit, they devoted district and Title I funds to the program.

 

A member of the community, a local priest, raised concerns about helping new migrant, Spanish-speaking neighbors in Sussex. He saw the need to work with children of workers at agricultural plants, which is why the program focused on English learners. The program has made a major difference for those students, so much that we have been able to track their progress throughout school and demonstrate that they continue to outperform their non-participating peers.

 

I remember when I was registering a family, a woman in tears said to me, “I always dreamed my children would have the opportunity to go to preschool…you are making it happen for my granddaughter.” I am still in touch with that child, who is thriving today.

 

The program, which is still in place today, received national recognition from the American Association of School Administrators and the National Association of State Boards of Education, and we were even able to create a scholarship for Project VILLAGE students who go on to college. It warms my heart to see the kids attending graduate programs, serving as leaders in student council, and coming back to teach in the district.

 

A number of districts have sought to expand their pre-K offerings for four-year-olds and to work with the early childhood community on shared professional development, walkthroughs, and other collaborations. What do you think has driven their efforts? And, how can we prioritize the teachers who are the most important factor in the classroom with students every day?

 

There is a growing interest in developing relationships with early learning programs and districts. One of the things we did in Indian River was include our ECAP teachers in district professional learning to ensure we had alignment and training for our workforce. Our reading specialists held workshops at night with child care and family child care providers on topics such as how to learn through music and how to read a book to a child. The specialists also went out to child care providers to model how to engage children in reading.

 

Other districts’ efforts are driven by recognition of lack of preparation for kindergarten. They see in their kindergarten screening/diagnostic tools that children are not where they should be in terms of vocabulary and basic concepts.

 

We saw last month from NIEER that some of our neighboring states are putting more emphasis on expanding state-sponsored pre-K for four-year-olds. How should we in Delaware approach pre-K?

 

We have seen a thirst to expand—in districts and in the community, and more can be done through ECAP efforts and other strategies. We see the opportunity, interest, and energy—to truly impact more children who need support. We will need resources and public will.

 

We are working with districts to leverage federal funding streams and opportunities in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and the state is being supported by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and national experts to look at the policies involved in expanding high quality pre-K.

 

You’re a self-titled “die-hard optimist”—what are the biggest opportunities you see for Delaware’s students?

 

I am optimistic because we have caring educators, and we have more and more people who understand the importance of high-quality early childhood learning experiences—and that it is not babysitting but true learning and development.

 

As Hellen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

 

We truly can impact forever the trajectory of a child by making sure he or she is ready to learn—and we have lots of work to do for kids!

The Power of Place: Q&A with Evelyn Edney of Early College High School @ DSU

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Dr. Evelyn Edney and her faculty like to joke about the 79,000 hats on the wall of her office, one for each duty she must perform as head of a small but growing—in both size and impact—charter school in Dover.

 

Since 2015, Edney has led the Early College High School at Delaware State University, a public charter high school where students get a true taste (and more) of the college experience. Following their exploratory freshman year, students begin taking bona fide college classes at next-door-neighbors Del State, where they can accumulate up to 60 college credits in addition to a whole lot of learning.

 

Edney preaches about the “power of place”—that is, the stark reality of entering a college classroom as a high school student, sitting next to older college kids and absorbing college-level coursework. “They have this realization that they can do it,” she says.

 

That power is paying off. At ECHS (which the Rodel Foundation helped establish), students are outpacing state averages in SAT language arts scores with a high population of low-income and minority students. In 2014 the school earned a Charter School Performance Fund award from the state.

 

As Edney and the ECHS crew prepared for their first-ever graduation ceremonies, we took the opportunity to ask a few questions.

 

What can you tell us about the Early College High School @ DSU model? What makes it different than the so-called typical high school experience?

 

At ECHS, there are two campuses—one, a Freshmen Academy and the other, an actual college campus. A typical day in the Freshmen Academy involves a half an hour breakfast, then four 90-minute periods that include core courses and electives with a 30-minute lunch, and finally a one-hour Advisory/activity period. The academics are broken into semesters to mirror the college.

 

On the college campus, DSU to be precise, the 10th, 11th, and 12th graders are housed. Sophomores are mainly still taking high school classes, and juniors and seniors are mainly taking college courses (12-15 credits per semester).

 

Why focus on three areas—Agribusiness, Forensic Biology and Community Health—in particular?

 

During the first year of the school, the focus was STEM, and those were the chosen pathways for students. But after some time, students developed interests outside of the STEM focus, so the ECHS administration approached DSU about changing the STEM focus to a STEM+ focus. They have, since then, allowed the students to “major” in 41 out of the 42 majors and concentrations that DSU has to offer (with Aviation being the only holdout due to students not being old enough to fly a plane).

 

Who are the ECHS students? Why do they enroll here versus another school?

 

The 420 students at ECHS come from all three counties in the State of Delaware. They enroll in the program to get a “leg up” in being afforded the opportunity to take up to 60 college credits while in high school. There is no program of its kind for miles around. Parents are also thrilled about the potential savings on college tuition.

 

Why is it important for students to have access to college-level coursework while they are still in high school?

 

Students should be challenged every day in school. Most schools have somewhere between 24-30 credits. Even with that, there are gaping holes in students’ schedules, particularly in the senior year. Students should be challenged in that year and have more access to college courses through dual enrollment programs. Not having access to college-level coursework is a travesty, but it happens every day.

 

We know there can be barriers for students to take college-level coursework in high school. What are some of the supports that ECHS has developed to help students find success?

 

Turning 14 year-olds into college students overnight could be a nightmare if there was not a way to monitor their progress and determine which students needed the most support. In 2015, ECHS school leaders developed the ECHS College Readiness Rubric to do just that. It measures the whole student each grade reporting period in the factors of grades, attendance, behavior, scores on larger assessments, and teacher recommendations.

 

The ECHS College Readiness Rubric allows students to self-govern, so that they can see their strengths and areas for development. The ECHS staff can do the same. This is used to identify students who need more supports in place. That comes in the form of a Response to Intervention (RtI) class, homework help, tutoring, etc.

How is ECHS supporting students to think about college majors and careers that they might want to pursue?

 

There are two ways that ECHS works with students regarding majors/careers. First, having DSU as a partner is wonderful place to start students thinking about the majors/careers they want to pursue. They have worked with our students in many ways to provide experiences that shed light on different careers and about the majors. ECHS students have been invited to participate in science labs, an SAP software competition, math and ecology integration, and other academic experiences. In addition, ECHS students have been able to participate in the DSU band and DSU chorus, mentorships with DSU students in varying majors.

 

The second way that ECHS supports students to think about college majors and careers is through the Advisory program. The role of the advisor is to assist the student in making reasoned choices, acquiring needed skills, and serving as the “reality check” that will make college possible. The “hidden curriculum” of the Advisory program is to create a situation where the student has connected on a much deeper level with at least one person in the ECHS school community.

 

The Advisory program is a four-year program. In the ninth grade year, the focus is on college readiness, so students spend the year learning the skills needed to become college ready. The 10th grade year is devoted to choosing a program of study. Junior and senior years are devoted to working on a Capstone Project, a study of some topic—inquiry-based or problem-based—within the major.

How do high school students usually react to taking courses with college students?

 

At first ECHS students are completely frightened about taking college courses with college students, but after a while, they realize they can hold their own and they are fine. ECHS students tend to do well in the classes with very few of them failing college courses during the last four years.

 

ECHS talks a lot of about 21st skills that all students will need as future leaders. Can you give us an idea of what that means and how you’re helping to build those skills?

 

ECHS promotes the following 21st skills within the Advisory program, positive behavior support program (Hornet PRIDE, Catch it!), and through project-based learning:  problem solving, creativity, analytic thinking, collaboration, communication, ethics, action, and accountability. The Advisory program allows students to collaborate and communicate while learning college readiness skills. The Hornet PRIDE, Catch it! PBS program helps students with accountability for one’s own actions and words. Students also learn problem solving, creativity, analytic thinking, as well as the other skills through project-based learning.

 

In December 2017, we released a landscape analysis on Supporting Postsecondary Success in Delaware. Through this research, 54 percent of students indicated that parents/family members have been most helpful in preparing them for their future (college/career)—a much higher percentage than teachers or counselors. How do you encourage parent and family engagement?

 

Parent and Family engagement looks different in high school than it does in other schools. It’s not about mom and dad sitting in the back of Johnny’s classroom because he is acting up in class. It’s about having a quiet place to study, a designated time to study, monitoring peer groups, etc. It’s about showing up whenever you can and partnering with the school by monitoring school work. ECHS invites parents to partner. There is a strong PTSA. Because parents come from all three counties, the PTSA meetings rotate between the counties so parents can attend. Also, there is Zoom Conferencing available for all meetings so that parents can attend without physically being there.

 

Parents are on the ECHS Board. They help to make the important decisions about the school.

 

Tell us about some of your students and what excites you about their futures.

 

Willow Bowen and Christy Malone are the No. 1 and No. 2 students in the senior classes respectively. They are attending Stanford and University of Pennsylvania in the fall. They have earned over 55 college credits (or more by the end of the semester), and their futures are so bright because of all they accomplished at ECHS. They have all A’s and B’s on their report cards with all A’s in their college classes. This is what ECHS is all about!

 

Then there are the students who did not start out being college ready who worked hard to get there; countless numbers. We are so excited for them!

April 2018 Teacher Newsletter

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April 2018

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TEDxWilmingtonED: Education Possible
Event Recap

 

Finding ways to improve Delaware’s educational system and expanding opportunities for every child was the focus of a TEDx event in February.

More than 300 teachers, school officials, and child advocates packed the glittering Gold Ballroom at the Hotel du Pont. The topic: “Education Possible.”

Local, regional and national authorities challenged attendees to find ways to improve school facilities, devise programs for the poor and disabled, and dare to be innovative. Finding those solutions could go a long way toward closing the state’s achievement gap between low-income students and those of means. Read more.

Three Rodel Teacher Council members spoke at the TedxWilmington: Education Possible Conference. Learn more about their talks below.

 

At times, an educator may be the only good thing that happens in a student’s day.

With that in mind, Lisa Mims, fourth grade teacher at Pleasantville Elementary, shares what could happen in classrooms where students know their teacher cares. The benefits could change your classroom!

 

The U.S. is facing a teacher shortage. One of the many factors is that not as many college students are choosing to major in education.

Stephanie Diggins, Teacher Academy/theatre teacher at William Penn High School, asks what if students were able to experience the profession from a teacher’s perspective before they graduate high school?

 

Robyn Howton, National Board Certified Teacher and ELA Chairperson/AVID Coordinator at Mount Pleasant High School, argues that the key to improving our schools is already in our classrooms and is not being fully utilized.

She gives real-world examples of teachers who are leading the charge while staying in their classroom.

Save The Date:
Local and National Conferences

Youth Entrepreneurship Summit 2018: A World Made by You (April 11-13, Newark)
The youth entrepreneurship summit is a unique three-day conference providing students, educators, and supporters from around the world the opportunity to develop new skills while energizing their entrepreneurial spirit. Learn from world-class speakers, entrepreneurs, and mentors. Join a community of like-minded peers and forge lifelong connections.

7th Annual Making A Difference Conference (April 13-14, Dover)
The Delaware Association for the Education of Young Children partners each spring with Delaware Head Start Association, with support from Delaware Department of Education for the annual Making A Difference in Early Childhood: A Conference for Early Childhood Professionals. Registration for the 2018 conference is now open.

Delaware Readiness Teams Parent Conference (April 14, Dover)
Join the Delaware Readiness Teams as they explore new strategies to aide your child’s developmental progress. The keynote speaker is Brandon Gogue who will help you guide your child’s unique gifts and talents to achieve success and happiness. This event is free and open to the public. Breakfast and lunch will be served.

Delaware Education Funding Summit (April 19, Newark)
Join the Education Equity Delaware coalition for a half-day summit on the state’s education funding system. Attendees will hear from national and local experts about opportunities to better serve our students by providing equitable and adequate resources according to their need and join an advocacy movement and a coordinated coalition of organizations committed to excellent and equitable education opportunities for all Delaware students.

2018 Delaware STEM Symposium & Educator Awards (May 2, Dover)
Join the celebration at the 2018 Delaware STEM Symposium & Educator Awards Gala. The day will consist of three panels: the role of STEM in food and agricultural production, the future of STEM in health care, and the key role of IT across STEM industries in Delaware. The group will then all meet together to hear remarks from prominent elected officials and the announcement of the winners of the 2018 Educator Awards and a networking reception.

2018 Summer Program for Innovative Educators (June 19-20, Newark)
Learn how to integrate concepts of entrepreneurship into your classroom and programs. Educators will gain an understanding of the evidence-based entrepreneurial process
from design thinking and ideation, to the business model canvas and practice methods to apply these ideas in the classroom. This program will focus on experiential learning and is relevant for all pathways.

2018 Summer Certificate Program for Teaching Entrepreneurship (June 24-28, Newark)
The summer certification Program for Teaching Entrepreneurship (PTE) is a program for high school teachers who are interested in utilizing Horn Entrepreneurship’s state-of-the-art, evidence-based curriculum with their students. Participation in PTE also provides educators with a discounted license of the Horn Entrepreneurship semester-based high school evidence-based entrepreneurship curriculum.

Award and Professional
Development Opportunities

Examining the Relationship between Emotional Intelligence, Cultural Intelligence, and Educators’ Self-Efficacy in Delivering Culturally Responsive Teaching Practices (Deadline: April 6)
Dr. Tia Barnes, an assistant professor at the University of Delaware, is seeking current Preschool – 12th grade teachers in Delaware to complete two surveys regarding their experiences with culture, emotional well-being, and teaching styles. Both surveys will take between an hour and fifteen minutes to complete. As a thank you for participating, Dr. Barnes will provide each participant with a $30 Amazon gift card. Please contact tnbarnes@udel.edu for more information.

NCSS Outstanding Social Studies Teacher of the Year (Deadline: April 30)
The annual NCSS Outstanding Teacher of the Year Awards recognize exceptional classroom social studies teachers for grades K-6, 5-8, and 7-12 who teach social studies regularly and systematically in elementary school settings, and at least half-time in middle or junior high and high school settings. Award winners receive $2,500, complimentary one-year membership in NCSS, and present a session on their work at the NCSS Annual Conference.

Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (Deadline: May 1)
The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching are the highest honors bestowed by the United States government specifically for K-12 mathematics and science teaching. Established by Congress in 1983, the President may recognize up to 108 exemplary teachers each year. Awardees serve as models for their colleagues, inspiration to their communities, and leaders in the improvement of STEM education.

NEA Learning & Leadership Grant (Deadline: June 1)
NEA Learning & Leadership grants support the professional development of NEA members by providing grants to: individuals to participate in high-quality professional development like summer institutes, conferences, seminars, travel abroad programs, or action research groups to fund collegial study, including study groups, action research, lesson plan development, or mentoring experiences for faculty or staff. Preference is given to proposals that incorporate STEM and/or global competence.

Teacher Awards for Literacy (Deadline: June 1)
Do you know a great teacher? Teachers can apply or be nominated to the Penguin Random House Teacher Awards for Literacy $10,000, $5,000 and $2,500 grant awards are available including $2,500 in Penguin Random House titles. Transportation, lodging, and conference registration is also provided for the $10,000 grant recipient to attend the Penguin Random House Awards event at the National Council of Teachers of English Conference in Houston from November 15-18, 2018.

The Friday Institute – Massive Open Online Courses for Educators (Various Dates)
The Friday Institute is deeply involved in bringing competency-based approaches into educator preparation, credentialing and professional development. The Friday group has developed a series of micro-credentials for teachers, coaches, and administrators. These self-directed, job-embedded, competency and research-based demonstrations of understanding or skills often support and extend the learning opportunities offered in the MOOC-Eds but can also be earned outside of the context of our courses.

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.

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