by Mark DiMaio
Don’t miss your opportunity to participate in this year’s Delaware Principal for a Day program. Our goal is to match every requesting school with a business leader. We have 25 great opportunities left! This year, 118 schools signed up statewide. We’ve teamed up leaders with 93 of those schools but we still need your participation. Help us match every school with a business leader. The Delaware Principal for a Day program began in 1993, and since 2004, has facilitated more than 1,400 school visits that join principals with local business leaders to build grassroots partnerships. These relationships are key to developing the workforce of tomorrow.
This year’s program runs from Monday, October 12, 2015 to Friday, October 16, 2015. If these dates do not work for your schedule, we will work with you to find a school and date that fits your calendar.
Sign up today and meet YOUR future workforce!
by Matt Amis
Ernie Dianastasis—perhaps more than ever—is eager to go back to school this fall.
The longtime business leader and education advocate serves as chairman of the Vision Coalition Leadership Team, a cadre of local influencers who work collaboratively and cooperatively to improve Delaware schools.
This month, the coalition releases Student Success 2025. Like its well-known predecessor, Vision 2015, Student Success 2025 is an ambitious 10-year plan designed to boost Delaware’s public education system to world-class status.
Delaware Business caught up with Dianastasis—who, when he’s not leading his CAI (Computer Aid, Inc.) global IT firm, also leads the Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee—to talk about the plan and the vision for the future of Delaware schools.
Tell us about a little about Student Success 2025.
This is a 10-year vision for public education in Delaware. We started back in 2014 by asking a question: What are the skills and attributes that an educated Delawarean needs to have by the year 2025?—and worked backward from there to develop the strategies to achieve that vision. And we’re not just jumping straight to 2025—these are issues we can begin working on today.
The plan itself deals primarily with six core areas: quality early learning, personalized learning, postsecondary and career attainment, educator support, school funding, and governance. The thinking is, by aligning those six areas better, Delaware can build a more modern and seamless education system, and our kids can take advantage of that in numerous ways.
So whose vision is this, exactly?
The ideas in this report don’t come from me. They don’t come from the Department of Education. Over the last few years, our group talked and collaborated with more than 4,000 Delawareans—including 1,300 students. They reached out online, in surveys, at community meetings, cups of coffee—you name it. The people of Delaware told us where they think we need to go as a state. They told us their hopes for providing more social and emotional support for kids, and for more collaboration between families and schools. And the kids themselves said they wanted more real-life career experiences and flexibility in their school experience. We took the student input very seriously. They’re at the center of this whole thing.
We also called upon leading experts in Delaware, across the country, and around the world—to help inform our thinking.
This is a follow-up to Vision 2015. Did that plan work? Is this the sequel?
Vision 2015 came out in 2006, and since its release around 75 percent of its recommendations have been acted upon in Delaware. That includes higher academic standards overall, new investments in teacher prep programs, and huge increases in the number of children enrolled in high-quality early learning environments. We have more kids than ever taking and passing AP courses, taking foreign language immersion classes, applying to college, and participating in career pathways.
So, I’d say it has worked, but to be candid some things simply haven’t—like improvements to our funding system, and big shifts that we didn’t anticipate a decade ago, like the explosion of technology in our daily lives. When the community sees Student Success 2025, they will see that we looked to address those gaps and build on the foundation we started. There’s still so much more we can do to support our schools and our kids. We also need to remember that transforming a multi-century old system does not happen overnight. It is a multi-year journey with many phases. There is no finish line where we declare victory. Rather, it is a life-long commitment to excellence that we must all embrace.
What happens next? How do you transition the plan into action?
Well, we’ll officially release the report on September 16 at a special event at the Del Tech Dover campus, and from there, we’ll follow up with our Annual Conference on October 28, where we’ll try to reenergize Delawareans around these issues and keep the momentum going. From there, we’ll establish some dedicated implementation teams to dig in on putting these recommendations into practice. Some will be easier than others, and some of them are already underway. That said, at the end of the day, this is about results, so we are going to hold ourselves accountable by producing a report card on the progress we make every fall. We hope the Chamber and the community as a whole keeps the pressure on to make sure we collectively deliver on what we’ve promised. We all need to own this.
We haven’t seen a whole lot of harmony when it comes to education policy in Delaware lately. What makes this any different?
I think it goes back to the collaborative nature of the plan. At the end of the day, of course we will need political and legislative action to enact some of these recommendations. And we know the state is facing some major revenue issues. But the truth is, we aren’t all going to agree on everything. As a group, the coalition is committed to working on the 80 percent or more that we all agree on, and keep the work moving forward. We accept that there will be real disagreements on the margins, but we can’t let that slow us down.
And in fact, everyone in Delaware can play a part. You already have members of the business community energized around career pathways for students; you have all these wonderful family and community organizations providing support; you have school districts collaborating on things like personalized learning. There are already so many great things happening in pockets throughout Delaware, so our biggest challenge right now is connecting them all together across the state, and doing more of what works. Let’s focus on the things we already agree on, and work toward this vision for the future. It’s closer than we think.
For more info on Student Success 2025, visit www.visioncoalitionde.org
Submitted by Donna R. Johnson, Delaware State Board of Education
We believe that all Delaware students deserve an education that prepares them to lead full and productive lives in the 21st century. Their success in a competitive world depends on it. That was one of the reasons why we adopted new standards in English Language Arts and Math in the summer of 2010. In recent years, Delaware has been a national leader in raising the academic standards for our schools and students, but we know that we still have work to do. Using higher standards and rigorous expectations for students, teachers, and leaders helps prepare all Delaware students to achieve a level of college, career, and civic readiness upon graduation. This will not happen in isolation, we must work together to help all students be more prepared for college and careers, so they are ready for the real world.
In the 2014-15 school year Delaware public schools began administering new state tests for English and math subjects in grades 3 to 8 and 11, called Smarter Balanced assessments. The new tests are based upon the very same standards that our students’ classroom lessons are based upon and more closely align with the type of teaching and learning they do each day. When results were released statewide in September it showed that statewide we exceeded the projected proficiency rates from the national field test. This was due in large part to the work of our teachers, leaders, and community partners in implementing CCSS standards, aligning curriculum, and supporting student learning through these shifts – but we are not done yet. As our discussions with local boards, surveys of students and educators in our state, as well as the district reviews of curriculum alignment – this work is still underway and we need to continue to support these efforts.
These results of school performance cannot be viewed in a vacuum – student performance is a result of the total package of inputs and supports in the educational program. Our direction must be to stay the course with the work we are doing and continue to improve upon it further. The data shows we still have quite a bit of work to do to prepare our students for their future success, but it also shows that we have a strong foundation to build upon.
As these new score reports are sent home to parents, utilized to inform instructional decisions in schools, and reviewed by our business leaders and community members we wanted to help by sharing available resources for explanation, further information, and suggestions of where to find additional assistance. We have provided this page with several resources, including informational videos, downloadable overview documents, and websites that are customized to assist with learning specific academic skills. Our hope is that you can use these resources to learn more information about the new tests and the standards they are based upon.
Check out the VIDEO below which will walk you through and explain the Smarter Balanced Test Score Reports
by Mark DiMaio
Back by Popular Demand….. (hint – it’s not the album by Rapper Kurtis Blow)
At the suggestion of the Chamber’s Young Professionals Group, the State Chamber will reconvene its Economic Development Committee later this fall. In the early 2000s, the committee was mothballed due to a quickly expanding Delaware economy. After the housing bust, the State Chamber’s policy efforts went into supporting policies to stabilize Delaware’s economy. Much has changed over the past few years and the time is right to put additional emphasis on economic development issues.
Mike Vanderslice, VP of Sales and Marketing for Environmental Alliance, will chair the committee and is part of the next generation of State Chamber leadership. The Committee membership will include younger executives as well as more seasoned leaders covering a diverse number of industries throughout the state.
The Committee’s mission will focus on expanding economic opportunity, an issue that’s important to all Delawareans. Internally, the Committee will engage other DSCC Committees such as Tax, Transportation & Infrastructure, Environmental and Employee Relations along with Board of Governors in developing and advancing the State Chamber’s economic development policy.
As part of the mission, the Committee will partner with DEDO, County and City Economic Development Offices, as well as local chambers to promote policies that support existing industries and foster a business climate that attracts new and innovative companies to Delaware.
James DeChene is the Chamber's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.