Vision 2015 Conference: Videos and Breakout Summaries
Want more follow-up on the Vision 2015: Race to Deliver conference? A write-up and videos are available from UD here. Also, below are summaries of the breakout discussions. If you are interested in the School Turnaround session, more will be coming later this week.
Panelists participating in the session on STEM (Science, Technology, Math, Engineering, and Math) agreed on two main points. First, teachers benefit from spending time together, sharing ideas, and combined experience to streamline and improve the teaching process; and second, that while getting students to like math and science is easy enough or at least not impossible, the challenge is in getting those same students to make learning a lifelong choice and choose a profession in teaching STEM subjects. As one panelist commented, “Putting a basketball player on a math or science poster isn’t going to work.”
Participants in the session on Teacher Effectiveness and Evaluation: Incentives, Measures, and Supports discussed the current national and state landscape surrounding teacher effectiveness. First, conversations centered on Delaware’s utilization of student achievement data to determine teacher effectiveness and the incredibly important work of the various teacher working groups, particularly in non-tested subjects, to properly align student expectations with assessments in order to properly inform effectiveness determinations. Next, participants discussed the importance of incentives and how our current system–which principally rewards years of experience and attainment of graduate credits–is not adequately aligned with what we now know around teacher effectiveness. Finally, the participants discussed how Delaware is committed to providing new incentives through Race to the Top to teachers who work in high-needs schools, as well as opportunities through newly created career pathways for highly effective teachers.
The session, Leadership Effectiveness and Evaluation, raised some big questions. The first centered on the role of school leaders. Should they be instructional leaders, should they be operational leaders, or both? The key takeaway is that both roles need to be filled, but the right way to fill them may be different depending on the needs of the school, and the only way to fill both roles is to make sure that leadership isn’t just the duty of one person, but of the whole school team. Participants also talked about where leadership talent is going to come from, especially for our toughest schools. Training programs are doing their part, but the skills our next generation of leaders will need will only come when we have more authentic leadership induction and mentoring programs, and when we give leaders the support they need to grow and be successful. Finally participants discussed the challenges leaders are going to face in implementing the new teacher evaluation system next year. Development coaches will help them understand the process, but for them to trust and be trusted, they are going to need more than just good data. Communications and buy-in from all educators is going to be key to this success. Overall, looks like there is still a lot of work to do in defining roles, developing, and preparing strong leaders for all of Delaware’s schools.
The Role of School Board Members in School Transformation
The work that school districts and charter schools must undertake to deliver their Race to the Top commitments is large, complex, and systems-based. And it will require the support of governing boards, whether publicly-elected district board members or formally appointed charter school board members. Either way, participants suggested that the most important roles for board members are to hire great talent, provide policy guidance, and “fly cover and run interference” for district superintendents and charter leaders as they make decisions about budgets, personnel, accountability, service providers and employee contracts, and academic goals. Participants also noted that “everyone lives in a school district” so that this may be one of the most direct ways in which parents can get involved meaningfully in school reform.