Delaware educators talk strategy at Vision 2015

Hundreds of state educators participated in the Vision 2015 conference presented by the Rodel Foundation of Delaware.

The program brings together state leaders and education innovators to talk about the long-term goals of education in the First State.

Gov. Jack Markell highlighted some of the state’s progress over the past few years such as getting more low-income children into quality pre-school programs.

“The population of low-income kids in preschool has increased from one out of every 20 to one out of every three of those enrolled in a quality rated pre-school program,” he explained.

He also talked about the success of the world language immersion program where some Delaware students spend half of their day learning in English and the other half learning in a foreign language.

Some areas in need of continued improvement, according to Markell, include getting more students ready for college, raising the standards for teachers and continuing the implementation of Common Core State Standards.

The governor was one of the biggest proponents of the Common Core initiative and helped to get nearly every state in the country to adopt the standards.

“There’s been some pushback against the Common Core,” said Markell. “People trying to argue that it’s some plot from Washington. That’s not what this is about, that’s not what this has ever been about. It’s about states and school superintendents across the country coming together and saying ‘What is it that we expect our kids to know?’”

He said the key to making Common Core successful is continuing to train teachers and providing them with the proper materials.

Markell added that while the state has good plans in place, the goal for Vision 2015 is executing strategy.

“This is a good strategy, I’m proud of this strategy, but a good strategy that is not implemented well isn’t worth anything,” he said. “That’s what this conference comes down to.”

Education Innovation

As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, educators are embracing the latest ways to connect with students.

A few Delaware teachers shared their success with ‘Blended Learning,’ which mixes classroom and online instruction. Educators also had a chance to network with representatives from some of the leading digital learning providers.

More than a year ago, the state partnered with Compass Learning, a company that provides instructional-based digital content to provide the service to every high school in Delaware.

Jeannine De-Paul Nelson, a representative with Compass Learning explained that programs are aligned to national Common Core as well as individual state standards.

“What the teachers can do is create tests, assess students’ strengths and weaknesses and automatically push out an individualized, personalized learning plan for each student to work in their competencies,” explained De-Paul Nelson.

Another featured digital learning program is ST Math, developed by a nonprofit neuroscience institute.

“ST stands for spatial temporal so we use math software that taps into students spatial-temporal reasoning to solve complex math problems,” explained Pat Hulihan, a representative with the program.

While it sounds complex, Hulihan said it’s something we do everyday without even realizing it. He added that the program has shown promising results in students with some learning challenges.

“There’s no language involved so for ELL (English Language Learner) students, or for students with learning disabilities who are not good readers, they can do the math without having to read anything,” explained Hulihan. It’s not designed specifically for those students, but it’s been extremely successful for them.”

North Georgetown Elementary School has been using the program for a few years, and nationally, more than 600,000 students utilize the software.

While the state as a whole continues to be progressive in education Lt. Gov. Matt Denn took a moment to highlight the iEducate Delaware program which recognizes Delaware’s most outstanding educators.

The 2013 iEducate honorees are Tara Amsterdam of Wilburn Elementary School, Tameca Beckett of the Laurel Public Library, Matt Farina of Mount Pleasant Elementary School, Samuel Heed of the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation and Jacqueline Lee of Gallaher Elementary School.

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