A Big Step Forward for the Rodel Teacher Council

It was a banner year for the Rodel Teacher Council (RTC). In previous years, we conducted some pretty serious research on personalized learning, and then took our knowledge and turned it into informative briefs, reports, and even workshops for our fellow teachers.

This year was different. We wanted to turn our expertise into action; good ideas and best practices into concrete policy. And that’s just what we did. We started by asking some critical questions: How should I respond to a student demonstrating effects of trauma? Where can I access professional development that’s more engaging and relevant to my classroom needs? Will our school’s internet crash during our state testing tomorrow? Then we went about tackling concrete answers.

Read on below for recaps of the four RTC working groups. We did our best to summarize the teachers’ incredible work, but we still didn’t fully capture all the time, energy, and focus our colleagues  poured into every meeting, every strategy session, every important decision. In short, the RTC changed the game this year. Teachers impacted policy decisions in a more direct way than we ever imagined. Our teachers exemplified the belief that collective voices can lead to meaningful action and significant results.


Broadband Connectivity

WORKING GROUP MEMBERS:

  • Karen Eller, Stubbs Elementary School
  • Stephanie Diggins, William Penn High School
  • Joyce Lester, Bayard Middle School
  • Michael Paoli, Hodgson Vocational Technical High School

THE PROBLEM: Many Delaware schools still struggle to provide students with digital learning experiences.

In 2015, state agencies acknowledged these challenges and the need to have a regular assessment of school infrastructure, yet no action has been taken, so we don’t have a clear picture of where the needs exist.


“As Delaware educators, we fully understand the value of technology in education. Technology pervades our daily lives and routines—especially for young people—and its supposed to make our classrooms more streamlined and engaging—but it isn’t always that simple.”-RODEL TEACHER COUNCIL BROADBAND WORKING GROUP

OUR GOAL: Pass a policy during this year’s legislative session that will require the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) and Department of Technology and Information (DTI) to conduct and publish an annual review of school level broadband.

THE RESULTS: After months of advocating, the legislature passed the policy we developed and soon the DDOE and DTI will release the first annual review stating where additional broadband is needed in districts and schools.

Social and Emotional Learning

WORKING GROUP MEMBERS

  • Sherlynn Aurelio (retired), Harry O. Eisenberg Elementary School
  • Lyndsey Cook, Kent County Community School
  • Kevin Lair, Freire Charter School of Wilmington
  • Lindsay Hudson-Hubbs, Woodbridge Early Childhood Education Center
  • Lori Nichols, Brandywine Springs School
  • Stephanie Alexander, Southern Elementary

THE PROBLEM: Educators recognize the importance of developing the whole child—not just their English and math skills, but their ability to communicate, collaborate, and empathize.

But teachers need tools and structures—in the form of a common framework and competencies—to better support students’ social and emotional learning.

OUR GOAL: Kickstart the process for statewide adoption of SEL learning goals and competencies.

THE RESULTS: We not only met our goal by building partnerships with CASEL, Capital School District, the UD Positive Behavior Support team, and others to launch a planning process to develop a state framework, but we’re also proud to share Creating a Common Language for Social and Emotional Learning in Delaware, a resource for those interested in developing SEL policies and competencies for Delaware.


I am so impressed with the thoughtful approach Delaware has taken with SEL, with multiple constituents coming together around this. I see Delaware as so far ahead of other states in terms of all of the resources you’ve created, the thoughtful framing and thinking that you’ve already done. I see you as ready for this work and really excited to see the plan that you develop.LINDA DUSENBERY, COLLABORATIVE FOR ACADEMIC, SOCIAL, AND EMOTIONAL LEARNING (CASEL)

We knew that local people (including teachers and parents) and local priorities should drive our work, so we began assembling a Delaware SEL collaborative of districts and other partners (such as the DDOE and its Positive Behavior Support project) who were interested in working together on a common language for SEL, including frameworks, communications, and competencies. ​

That collaboration led to Creating a Common Language for Social and Emotional Learning in Delaware, a shared resource for those interested in developing SEL policies and competencies for Delaware.

What’s next? We’re working with partners now to develop a formal request for assistance from CASEL, which we plan to submit later this summer. By fall, we plan to formally kickoff a Delaware SEL collaborative that will undertake the work of developing a common language for SEL.

Personalized Professional Development

WORKING GROUP MEMBERS:

  • Lisa Mims, Pleasantville Elementary School
  • Jessica Inskeep, Forest Oak Elementary School
  • Tim Brewer, Hodgson Vocational Technical High School
  • Kendra Rosner-Moritz, John S. Charlton School Program
  • Kimberly Neal, Brandywine High School

THE PROBLEM: Professional development offerings for educators are not flexible, engaging, or specific. In order for us to effectively implement personalized instruction for our students, a parallel system of personalized professional development must also exist.

OUR GOALS: Change the state’s education regulations to give educators the option of receiving professional development hours through the use of microcredentials.

Microcredentials are focused, competency-based units of study that outline how educators can demonstrate that they have mastered a very particular concept or skill.


There is a trend now for personalized learning for our students. We want to mke sure we are as close as possible to giving each student what he or she needs to succeed. Yet, teachers are forced to take “one size fits all” Professional Development, regardless of their needs. This needs to stop. Teachers need to take ownership of their Professional Development. They need to make decisions on where and what they need in order to have a greater positive impact in their classrooms.-RODEL TEACHER COUNCIL BROADBAND WORKING GROUP

THE RESULTS: Throughout the term, members of our working group completed microcredential courses—on topics ranging from writing publicly to influence policymakers to communicating with families using data—and met with representatives at DDOE and DSEA to share our reflections and policy suggestions.

In the fall, we’ll continue our advocacy efforts by presenting to the Professional Development and Associated Compensation (PDAC) committee, which is convened by the Professional Standards Board (PSB). These groups are currently considering measures to approve microcredentials for Delaware teachers.

Competency-Based Learning

WORKING GROUP MEMBERS:

  • Robyn Howton, Mount Pleasant High school
  • Kate Bowski, Milton Elementary School
  • Cheryl Jones, First State Montessori Academy
  • Jared Lelito, Fred Fifer III Middle School

THE PROBLEM: Competency-based learning (CBL) ties a student’s advancement through school to demonstrated proficiency, rather than an average grade covering a range of topics. It’s already happening in some Delaware schools.

But CBL is a significant change to grading and reporting, and many wonder about competency-based learning transcripts, and whether colleges or universities will accept them in the admissions process. This lack of clarity may hinder schools and districts from implementing a competency-based learning model.

OUR GOALS: To get every college and university in Delaware to sign onto a letter indicating that they will accept competency-based transcripts from Delaware high school students starting in the class of 2019.​

THE RESULTS: We met with admissions representatives from every college in the state. They all told us the same thing: They receive applications from all around the world, including from home school students, international students, and students in competency-based models. They were more than happy to put that in writing for us.


We accept a wide variety of transcripts as long as they meet our stated admissions requirements and provide a full and accurate presentation of what the applicant has learned and accomplished. Competency-based, proficiency-based, or standards-based transcripts can provide us with everything we need and do not disadvantage applicants in any way.DOUG ZANDER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF ADMISSIONS, UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE


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