U.S. Education Secretary visits Delaware for community roundtable discussion

Educators, business leaders and state officials packed a conference room at the Carvel State Building in Wilmington to hear what U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had to say about Delaware’s progress in implementing its Race to the Top plan.

“The eyes of the nation are on Delaware,” said Duncan, who made his way to the First State on Friday for a roundtable discussion on goals and challenges of the Race to the Top plan. Several people came with many questions and concerns to the forum, including the 2012 State Teacher of the Year Amber Augustus from the Smyrna School District.

The month of March marks the two-year anniversary since Delaware became one of two states selected to win federal grant money for education reform in the first round of Race to the Top. In the end, Delaware received $119 million for a four-year grant to implement comprehensive school reforms to improve student outcomes.

As for the state’s overall progress so far, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Lillian Lowery was open with her thoughts. “If any school that is failing that has not reached the threshold of proficiency, that really does attribute kids to a great life ahead, is a failure. So even good things are going on in those schools, but until every student is proficient, we have work to do,” expressed Lowery. 

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To achieve the goals ahead, Delaware plans to implement several changes including reworking its educator evaluation system that illustrates student growth data.  However, Gov. Jack Markell, who was seated alongside Duncan, admits there may be challenges.  “None of this is easy, but we will keep moving forward together,” Markell said.

In the meantime, the opportunity to sit down with Duncan, truly meant a lot, according to educators. “Number one it affirms the really hard work that’s going on in the state, our educators are doing a really great job at implementing our school-wide and statewide improvement plan, so to hear him affirm the good pieces was just remarkable and very validating,” said Lowery.

“You can be a huge state or small state, if you don’t have people at the top who are passionately invested in this it’s not going to work, but when you have that leadership and that consistency and passion, then I think you have a chance to succeed whether you are large or small, it doesn’t matter, and what you have across the board is a set of players that I think gives this state a chance to do something really special,” said Duncan.

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