No Longer a “D” for Delaware

February 2nd, 2012

Category: Early Childhood Education, News, Policy and Practice

It’s been a busy couple of years for education policymakers, especially when it comes to “teacher quality.” And with all the recent apprehension about teacher evaluation and DPAS II—and all the revisions that have occurred—it’s easy to forget about the progress we’ve made.

But the fact of the matter is that we have made progress—more than most states, according to The National Council on Teacher Quality’s State Teacher Policy Yearbook. Not only did we improve our grade from a “D” in 2009 to a “C,” but we were 6th in the nation in growth.

The report commends us for:

  • Identifying effective teachers—we’ve increased the rigor of our teacher evaluation system, which now relies more heavily on evidence of satisfactory student growth.
  • Raising the bar for teacher licensure and tenure—we now require teachers to show evidence of student performance before we grant licensure or tenure-like protections.
  • Support and penalties for poor performance—teachers who receive unsatisfactory evaluations are placed on improvement plans. If they don’t improve, they are eligible for dismissal.
  • Expanding the pool of teachers—through the establishment of alternative pipelines such as Teach for America, we’ve increased the pool of teachers.

Not all the news was good, however—we’ve got a ways to go before we’re at an “A”:

  • Delivering well prepared teachers—we have low or nonexistent state policies prescribing admission into our state preparation programs. The University of Delaware, for example, has no special requirements for entrance into its education program; a passing Praxis score is not required until junior year. NCTQ highlighted Texas, which requires all applicants to pass its basic skills test.
  • Preparing our teachers well—NCTQ found our coursework requirements to be subpar at all levels, especially elementary and special education, pointing to states like Massachusetts that have much more rigorous requirements.
  • Holding teacher prep programs accountable—Delaware doesn’t hold teacher prep programs accountable—it’s unclear if we even collect the data required to do this. NCTQ points to states like Florida, which evaluates programs based on their teachers’ impact on student learning, publishes this data, and even requires programs to continue supporting teachers, especially if their teachers are deemed in need of remediation.
  • Strengthening alternative routes to certification—Delaware’s ARTC program does not have a GPA requirement, nor are candidates required to pass a basic skills test. NCTQ points to Michigan and DC, whose ARTC programs have higher standards than traditional programs do.
  • Reporting data on teacher quality distribution—NCTQ finds Delaware’s data collection and reporting on teacher distribution both inadequate and outdated, leveling the same criticism at most of the country.
  • Requiring layoffs be based on merit rather than seniority—Delaware offers no guidance on reductions in force. NCTQ points to Florida, Indiana, and Colorado, which require performance to be one of—if not the top—consideration for layoffs.

In the context of all that’s been happening recently in the state, the report provides much needed perspective. It’s important to recognize how far we’ve come. Change (especially at the state level) comes neither quickly nor easily, and Delaware has accomplished a lot in a short amount of time. At the same time, the report is an important reminder that we still have much to do. While we were one of the “most improved,” in none of the 36 goals were we listed as an example of a “best practice.” As one of the first winners of Race to the Top and the recent recipient of the Early Learning Challenge grant, many eyes around the nation are focused on us. We’ve come this far by working together, and now more than ever we need to keep at it and sustain this momentum—for our teachers and for our kids.

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Brian Yin



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