Guest Blog by President Harker, University of Delaware
This is a guest blog by Patrick Harker, President of the University of Delaware. On October 18, the University of Delaware will be hosting a Vision 2015 sponsored conference on Delaware’s education reform efforts, “Delaware’s Race to Deliver: Getting it Done…and Done Right. This is first in a blog series about the upcoming conference. Stay tuned this week for upcoming blogs in the series.
Five years ago this month, Delaware unveiled a plan to reform public education. The “vision” in Vision 2015 is the realization of the plan’s six goals: high expectations and world-class standards for all students; early education that prepares every child for school; great teachers in every classroom; principals trained and empowered to be effective leaders; a system that encourages innovation and demands accountability; a funding structure that’s equitable and adequate.
We haven’t achieved the vision yet; change this significant is rarely accomplished quickly. But we are putting in place those things that make the vision credible—for instance, more rigorous math and English/language arts standards and a teacher evaluation system better linked to student achievement. We have a network of early-adopter schools making progress on change indicators, and we’re taking action to improve persistently low-performing schools. Our efforts have been bolstered by Race to the Top, which supports the goals we’ve already identified and can accelerate our progress toward meeting them.
But what Delaware has that predicts success more persuasively than any discrete improvement effort is a range of stakeholders who agree that reform is needed, who agree on the principles of this reform (if not always the details) and who are willing to discuss publicly and substantively where we’re doing well and where we’re falling short.
This is the discussion we’ll undertake on October 18 at Delaware’s fourth annual conference on public education. Delaware’s Race to Deliver: Getting It Done … and Done Right is sponsored by Vision 2015, and will feature sessions on the nuts and bolts of reform: where Race to the Top money is going and how the program is rolling out at the school and district levels; the role of school boards in reform; how to fairly evaluate teachers and distinguish effective teaching from ineffective; how the first cohort of Partnership Zone schools are handling significant turnaround efforts and what the second cohort might learn from their work. Plus, the day’s keynote speaker, Gov. Jack Markell, will participate in an audience Q&A.
Clearly, the University of Delaware has a vested interest in improving the state’s schools. Eight in ten college-bound Delawareans apply to UD. We want all of them to be ready for college-level work and able to keep pace through four years of a steadily tougher curriculum. We want them to compete with the world’s best graduates for the world’s best jobs, and to enrich Delaware by contributing their time and talent and resources here. This is how you keep the state vital.
But UD isn’t just a beneficiary of the state’s reform efforts; we’re a full partner in them. We prepare a significant share of the teachers who go to work in Delaware’s classrooms and focus initiatives on filling high-need subjects and schools; we provide the professional development that helps teachers become more effective; we coach principals and school administrators through the challenges of leadership and change; we intensively research curriculum and pedagogy to influence the content students are taught and when and how.
I hope to see you at Vision 2015’s Race to Deliver. Delaware’s students deserve a world-class education, and “world class” doesn’t happen without all of us at the table, willing and able to make it so.