One Year In, Where Do We Stand?

April 1st, 2011

Category: News

So, one year in, where is Delaware on Race to the Top (RTTT)?  A new report from Vision 2015 measures Delaware’s progress—both what’s been done and what lies ahead.

The impetus for the report came from Delaware Education Secretary Lillian Lowery one year ago, when she asked the Vision 2015 coalition (of which I am a member) to “help keep Delaware’s feet to the fire” in implementing RTTT.    It was an admirable request for accountability and transparency, and it remains so today.

While the state has had to make some course corrections, it hasn’t side-stepped anything it committed to one year ago.  For the last seven years, our foundation has been looking to add a mix of “hope” and “heat” to a very complex reform agenda and we have not shied away from laying out the facts when we thought there was work to be done.

The amount of work our state’s team has done in partnership with districts and charters has been Herculean.  Together, they have overhauled our standards (along with other Common Core states); moved from a clunky paper-and-pencil assessment to an online, computer-based assessment for 130,000 students; managed the design of a new teacher evaluation system for 9,000 educators; launched or expanded new alternative certification routes for hundreds of teachers (TFA, TNTP and a STEM residency) and principals (the Delaware Leadership Program, which is an outgrowth of the New York City Leadership Academy); and the list goes on.  Perhaps most fascinating is the thoughtful work the state has done with 19 districts to develop their Scopes of Work, demonstrating how they will rethink their work and spend their half of Delaware’s $119 million in federal funding.

Are there rational concerns about how this will all play out?  Of course.  The plans for our low performing schools, known as “Partnership Zone” schools, look reasonable on paper, but we won’t know if the reforms are for real until they become more than plans.  The roll out of the teacher evaluation process is hugely complex, so getting it right will be exceptionally hard.  But the state has acted with integrity and urgency to move this massive agenda forward, and for that our leaders deserve our collective respect and praise.

Beyond the RTTT priorities, we also have provided updates on two additional Vision 2015 priorities: early childhood education and our school finance system.  In both of these areas, you’ll see that the Vision 2015 coalition – which includes business, higher education, and district, state and union leadership – believes we have significant work to do.

We remain committed to transforming Delaware’s public education system—a pledge we consider as a moral imperative to Delaware’s children and an economic necessity for our nation’s leadership.

We welcome your comments on how RTTT is playing out from your perspective.

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Paul Herdman