Archive for the ‘Vision Coalition of Delaware’ Category

A Wholehearted Approach to Learning

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A few years ago, my fellow members of the Vision Coalition and I began reaching out to Delawareans. We wanted to hear what they thought a well-educated young person would need to know and be able to do in the year 2025.

What we heard from more than 4,000 people was not surprising. People told us that better academics and improved test scores are important—being able to read and understand math would still be foundational. But they wanted more than that. What people really wanted was a richer educational experience for their children, one that instilled skills like communication, collaboration, critical thinking, empathy, and creativity. They wanted young people to be healthy, to be able to respond to a rapidly changing world, and to have an educational experience that was not cookie-cutter, but one that maximized who they are as individuals.

That broad set of skills ultimately became the North Star, the guiding centerpiece to Student Success 2025. The North Star became our goal for the next 10 years, and we began mapping backwards from it to discern the policy changes needed to reach that goal. For example, if we wanted to maximize the potential of every child, that meant we needed a funding system that addressed each student’s educational assets. It meant we needed to train our teachers differently.

This concept of developing the “whole child”—a phrase that’s often cross-referenced with “social emotional learning”—is not a new one. Generations of practitioners have told us that the so-called soft skills mentioned above, along with physical and mental health, nutrition, and exposure to the arts, are all important ingredients in child development. In fact, we’re seeing a rare convergence among leaders in education and business that this broader set of skills, which educators see as essential, are often the same ones that employers say they can’t find in prospective employees.

As personalized learning continues to gain traction throughout Delaware and the nation, we’ll be hearing much more about the “whole child” and social emotional learning. These terms are all intertwined through shared goal of meeting young people where they are. In the coming months, we’ll be working to ground these ideas in real examples in Delaware and nationally. Some of these examples will include new approaches in the classroom and others will help shine a light on assets in the community to educate our young people through a range of approaches, from after-school educational opportunities to on-the-job training.

There are already efforts underway in Delaware that are leading the charge in this emerging field.

But to be clear, when it comes to this topic, we have as many questions as we do answers. For example, how does one measure empathy or creativity? Aren’t some of the most important things in our lives difficult or impossible to measure? And if we can’t measure it, can we teach it?

There are fledgling efforts underway to address these and many other questions, and we hope to bring some of that early research to you as well.

This is a learning curve for all of us. We at Rodel are firm believers in excellence and equity for each of Delaware’s students—and we believe that nurturing them holistically is the basis for not only helping our young people be successful in school, but become good citizens and happy and healthy adults. I invite you to help us push our thinking and to learn along with us.

Why Teacher Prep Report Cards are Vital to Progress

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Last week, the Delaware Department of Education released the first reports on educator preparation programs. As a reminder, the reports were put into place per Senate Bill 51, passed in 2013, requiring that “Education preparation programs administered by institutions of higher education shall collaborate with the Department to collect and report data on the performance and effectiveness of program graduates. At a minimum, such data shall measure performance and effectiveness of program graduates by student achievement. The effectiveness of each graduate shall be reported for a period of 5 years following graduation for each graduate who is employed as an educator in the State. Data shall be reported on an annual basis. The Department shall make such data available to the public.”

In addition to being a bipartisan bill, it was lauded by national and local experts in the field.

The report cards assess programs across six domains:

  • Recruitment—the diversity of incoming program candidates within programs, as well as the performance of incoming candidates on the SAT
  • Candidate Performance—the performance of program candidates on general content assessments and performance assessments* required for certification
  • Placement—the rate at which program graduates get a job in Delaware schools within one year of graduation from the program, and the rate at which candidates get a job in a school designated as “high-need” by the department of education
  • Retention—the rate at which program graduates continue teaching in Delaware beyond year one (or three)
  • Graduate Performance—the performance of program graduates on the statewide teacher evaluation framework (DPAS-II), separated out by:
    • the student improvement component
    • observation scores
    • student growth (for educators with math, English, science and social studies DCAS scores)
    • overall evaluation scores
  • Perceptions*—surveys from program graduates on their satisfaction and level of preparedness from their program and surveys from LEAs on the preparedness of graduates from a particular program

This is a new effort informed by federal and state policy and this first iteration has generated some criticisms from the teacher preparation programs as to the strength of the metrics used, but our hope is that the state and these institutions continue to refine the information and their uses in the years ahead.

But the rationale for providing some version of this information is really important. Teachers matter. They are the most important in-school factor driving student achievement. And these new teachers are the pipeline for the second most important in-school factor to a child’s education: our school leaders. Moreover, Delaware spends a large portion of its $1.5 billion education budget on the people working in our schools, so it makes sense to try to determine how we can make sure our educators are ready to go when they enter our schools. Again, the details of the metrics may need ongoing refinement, but the concept makes sense.

On Wednesday, the Vision Coalition of Delaware will host its annual conference on education. This year’s conference will focus on Student Success 2025 which the coalition released in September. The report provides six core areas of recommendations to improve Delaware’s schools, including Educator Support and Development. Within those recommendations are several on making sure that new teachers are adequately prepared for “day one” in the classroom, and that educator preparation programs work more closely with K-12 schools to create alignment and continuous improvement for preparation programs. These data are a catalyst to jumpstart those recommendations. We encourage you to join the conversation at Clayton Hall on Wednesday.

*Data on candidate performance assessments and perception surveys were not available for the 2015 report cards.

Project-Based Success in “Most Likely to Succeed”

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About 20 years ago, I was teaching in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and met Larry Rosenstock, a really creative vocational education teacher at Cambridge Rindge and Latin high school.

Larry saw the power in letting kids drive their own learning process by developing large-scale projects, to which they could apply what they had learned in class. Larry went on to create a great charter school out in San Diego called High Tech High.

About a decade ago, Rodel sponsored a trip with Delaware educators to go see the school in action. More recently, a documentary called “Most Likely to Succeed” has come out about High Tech High, and how it can offer lessons for all schools.

I haven’t seen the film yet, but I appreciated David Brooks’ take on it for the New York Times. The approach at High Tech High–emphasizing the relational skills like collaboration, perseverance, and innovation–is something the Vision Coalition of Delaware hopes to see more of in our schools in the years ahead.

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