Private-Public Partnership Sees Progress on Schools
This op-ed was written by Ernie Dianastasis, Chair of Vision 2015 and managing director of CAI, and published in “The News Journal.” It is in recognition of the Vision 2015 conference on Delaware public education, held tomorrow at the University of Delaware. It was published alongside an op-ed about Common Core, written by former Delaware Teachers of the Year Courtney Fox and Amber Augustus.
One thing that makes people proud to work in Delaware is that we come together to tackle tough problems – and stay together to see the solutions through.
In 2005, 28 public, private and civic leaders from throughout the state came together to develop the bold Vision 2015 plan to provide a world-class education to all public school students by 2015.
On Wednesday, several hundred people will be joining us at the University of Delaware to not only discuss what we’ve collectively gotten done, but to explore what the next generation of learning could look like.
As the new chair of this effort, I’m proud to say that few states can claim the level of public-private collaboration that Delaware can – it’s exceptional and essential. While the federal government and many other states have gotten mired in gridlock, Delawareans have continued to do something unusual – talk to each other. While there is often debate, as there should be when talking about something as important as our children’s futures, we have demonstrated that when it matters, we get things done.
With input from hundreds of educators and community leaders, the state has made concrete gains relative to the big ideas set forth in Vision 2015. The recommendations put forward in the plan laid the groundwork for Delaware’s first-place finish in the national Race to the Top competition. We have raised standards for both our children and the adults that educate them; built a comprehensive strategy to support our earliest learners statewide; constructed perhaps the best data infrastructure in the country, so we know what works; and through efforts like the Vision Network of Delaware – which is now working with 29 schools around the state – we’ve begun to do something we have struggled to do for years, share what works.
Collectively, this has meant that our schools are getting stronger, with 10,000 more students proficient in English and math in 2012 than the previous year, and those gains sustained in 2013. Moreover, researchers at Harvard and Stanford have suggested that Delaware’s growth on the National Assessment of Educational Progress or NAEP, the one common measure across all states, is the third fastest in the country.
What’s exciting at this point is that we have turned the corner from “visioning” to “doing.” In 2006, we laid out what we thought would make sense based on the best thinking from within Delaware and around the world. Today, we can point to hundreds of educators in district and charter schools actually breathing life into that vision. In just the last few years, Dan Curry, superintendent in Lake Forest, can point to exciting new supports for his earliest learners so that they are truly ready for kindergarten; Lamont Browne, principal at EastSide Charter School, has built a new way of giving his teachers the support and feedback they need to excel; Melissa Tracy and her peers at Conrad Schools of Science, A.I. du Pont High School, and McKean High School, are able to offer AP courses virtually across three schools simultaneously, expanding access to students who previously may not have had such opportunities.
Still, there is more hard work ahead. Too many of our students are unprepared to be successful after they leave our school system. We need to dig deep to improve our college-going and completion rates, and continue to bridge the gap between our schools and the workplace such that our children are ready for this rapidly changing global world.
Change in the last decade seems to be accelerating – we are not just connected, but hyper-connected. As managing director of CAI, a Delaware-based information technology firm, I have a front-row seat on some of those changes. Closer to home, my kids are a daily reminder that the way young people interact with the world has changed – it’s global and instantaneous. These changes were not squarely in our sites back in 2005, so as we look to 2015 and beyond, we know we need to do a better job of listening to members of the community, educators, and young people so that our “vision” remains fresh.
We look forward to meeting our goals for 2015, and aspiring to even more challenging goals in the years that follow. Please join the effort and our annual conference.