A New Way of Teaching and Learning in Delaware?
Districts will work with non- and for-profit partner organizations—up to 22 in each district—as part of their Race to the Top plans to use federal funds to improve education. These partners will work with districts to implement various portions of their plan, from curriculum alignment to community engagement efforts.
A significant portion of districts are partnering with outside organizations to conduct some of this work – a sign that they recognize that there are others with expertise in these areas. Some vendors have local roots, such as the Delaware Academy of School Leadership (DASL) – which has negotiated over $200,000 of districts’ RTTT monies – and the Southern Delaware Professional Development Center (SDPDC), both of which are assisting with curriculum alignment, differentiated instructional practices, and professional development. The Delaware Teaching Fellows, which is based on The New Teacher Project model, will earn approximately $225,000 (with additional funds coming from the state) to help place secondary math, science, English, and Special Education teachers throughout the state. The most commonly cited names in the plans are nationwide organizations like Learning Focused Strategies, College Board, and Teach For America which will help with college readiness and teacher recruitment.
Approximately a year ago, Learning Focused Strategies (LFS) expanded in Delaware with the help of earlier Race to the Top and School Improvement Grant funding. Now, LFS will further broaden its involvement by working with at least 17 of the state’s 19 school districts for projects in RTTT plans ranging from a few thousand dollars in a district to over $400,000 around curriculum and professional development (this does not include state and local fund investments in LFS). This leaves us wondering: are we putting all our eggs in one basket with their specific instructional model? If we agree that this is where Delaware wants to go, should we coordinate efforts at the state level to take advantage of economies of scale? Perhaps initiatives like these are organically building a new way of teaching and learning in Delaware – one where districts and supporting organizations collectively work together to increase student learning.
Other questions include: will the alignment and implementation of so many initiatives—district and state identified– become a challenge? The hope with many is that they will build capacity and not require sustained funding after the grant period, but long-term plans are uncertain for many. If we use RTTT as an opportunity to try new approaches and use data-driven decision making, perhaps the “best” practices will emerge to help us meet our Race to the Top goals.