Education in the First State
December 27, 2017
Editor's Note: As we look toward 2018, this month's issue of Take Note highlights some of our favorite stories from the past year. This is an opportunity to celebrate the great work of our students and educators in 2017. Space has limited our selections - there are so many other great stories to revisit! - so don't consider this list exhaustive. Enjoy these highlights from 2017 and let us know what we should be celebrating in 2018 by emailing us your story ideas at Find past issues of Take Note here. Have a wonderful and safe holiday season, and thank you to the educators, families, community partners and others for the hard work you do every day to support education for Delaware students.
Academy provides support to assistant principals

Middletown High's new assistant principal, Dominic Banks, offers encouragement to students Christian Britton, Jordan Vaughan, Dianna Sartin and Spencer Scott on exam day.

January 2017 - Dominic Banks joined Appoquinimink School District's Middletown High School as assistant principal this school year, his sixth as an administrator but his first in Delaware. He knew the Delaware Department of Education's new Assistant Principal Academy would help his transition.

"This was an opportunity to learn what happens around the state and collaborate with other administrators," Banks said, adding often the only other assistant principals one has a chance to interact with are from one's own building or district. "I'm interested in seeing what others are doing from district to district."

Creating a professional learning community for assistant principals and providing stronger induction supports is exactly what state leaders had in mind when they launched the program this fall. Inspired by the Maryland Department of Education's AP Academy, the program fills a void in professional learning in the state, said Kelley Brake, the DDOE education associate who leads the program.

"Best practice research reveals that the second most influential factor (after teacher effectiveness) on student academic, social and emotional success is the principal of a school," Brake said. "This year's AP Academy is targeted to provide the kind of supports needed by new and novice assistant principals, new principals to the state, and any new principal who may have been a teacher or teacher-leader and may have jumped into the role of a first-year administrator without the benefit of an assistant principal experience."

$2 million grant will support career pathways

The grant money will support students in state-model pathway programs aligned to areas of high demand in Delaware's economy, such as the manufacturing pathway.

January 2017 - Earlier this month, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) announced Delaware as one of 10 states to receive a $2 million grant to strengthen and expand career pathways for the state's youth and adults.
These state grants, which will be distributed over the next three years, are part of  the $75 million, five-year New Skills for Youth initiative developed by JPMorgan Chase, in collaboration with CCSSO and Advance CTE. This initiative is aimed at strengthening career-focused education starting in high school and ending with postsecondary degrees and credentials aligned with high-skill jobs.
"In Delaware this year, nearly 6,000 students in 38 of 44 public high schools are enrolled in state-model pathway programs aligned to areas of high demand in Delaware's economy," former Governor Jack Markell said. "This grant will support initiatives like this that are critical to preparing all students for success after high school. In the process, we will come closer to achieving our Delaware Promise, which is that by 2025 the percentage of Delawareans with a college degree or professional certificate will match the percentage of our jobs that will require one - 65 percent."
New $7.65 grant supports early childhood education

Gov. John Carney reads to 4-year-olds at the Latin American Community Center in Wilmington, one of the programs partnering on an earlier Early Head Start-Child Care partnership grant. The partnership raises the quality of infant and toddler child care with more stabilized funding and by paying for teacher education, infant-toddler classroom materials and playground equipment. The program also provides wraparound health and parent services for children from low-income families (more photos ).
April 2017 - A $7.65 million federal grant will help Delaware expand high quality early childhood education to more of the state's youngest learners over the next five years.
This new Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership grant follows a $7.24 million grant the state received in January 2015. Both grants target early learning opportunities for children from low-income families. While the first grant supported such placements statewide, this new grant will continue the expansion with a focus on high quality care options in Kent and Sussex counties, areas with continued need for high quality infant and toddler care and holistic services, such as health and nutrition.
Governor John Carney, joined by Secretary of Education Susan Bunting, announced the new award last week during a visit to the Latin American Community Center's early childhood center in Wilmington. The LACC is one of participants in the 2015 grant.
"A high quality early learning experience is important for all children, and research shows this is especially true for our children from low-income families. High quality early learning yields substantial benefits for these children," Carney said, noting a 39 percent reduction in special education placements, 30 percent increase in high school graduation, 50 percent increase in college attendance and 20 percent reduction in the likelihood of serving time in jail. "Thanks to this grant, all children in these centers' classrooms will benefit from teachers with higher education and classrooms with higher quality materials and structural supports."

School's professional learning redesign celebrated

Educators from St. Georges Technical High School showcased their school's professional learning work at a statewide event earlier this month (more photos).

May 2017 - For the past year, Principal Shanta Reynolds and his team from St. Georges Technical High School in the New Castle County Vo-Tech School District have been focused on providing teachers with effective professional learning opportunities that improve student literacy skills. Using walkthroughs, peer visits and professional learning communities (PLCs) to review data and give teachers meaningful feedback on their instructional practices, Reynolds says the work has transformed how the school views professional learning.  
"The strategies we created are being incorporated throughout the school," Reynolds said. "Teachers are using a common language now - across social studies, ELA, carpentry - beyond the content classes into career education. The work is transforming classrooms and everyone's having a great reaction to the changes."
Delaware's focus on professional learning replaces the more traditional professional development model, which usually describes a one-shot, one-day event that gives educators information but seldom impacts student outcomes in the classroom. In 2012 Delaware adopted the  Learning Forward Professional Learning Standards to support districts and charter schools as they implement high-quality, effective professional learning.

Closets supply Delaware students with basic needs

Editor's Note: The following is a reprint of a Nov. 13, 2017 article on 

November 2017 - This educator didn't punish troublesome kids. She gave them a closet full of stuff.
This time last year, the top three most misbehaved boys at Equetta Jones' elementary school were from the same family.
As assistant principal, it fell to Jones to figure out how to solve the problem. Other educators might prescribe detentions, suspensions, extra tutoring help, or even a doctor's appointment to be evaluated for an attention-deficit issue. But Jones sensed that the problem ran deeper - and she had a solution.
"No child comes in every day and says 'I want to be angry. I want to hit you. I want to curse you out. I don't want to learn,'" she says. "So it is our responsibility to find out why they're verbalizing those things."
Often, the problem is the same: Many kids are not having their basic health, shelter, and nutritional needs met. "The middle class, we forget about the fact that when we wake up every morning, we wake up with shelter," Jones says.
Not all of her students have that luxury.
That's why Jones' school worked with an organization called First Book to install a "Care Closet" - a supply of basic essentials for kids in need. 
Other Good News in Delaware's Public Schools