Education in the First State
July 28, 2021
Governor Carney signs legislation to make Opportunity Funding permanent
Governor John Carney on Wednesday signed legislation to increase classroom-based support for low-income students and English learners in Delaware public schools.

Senate Bill 56, sponsored by Senator Laura Sturgeon, expands and makes permanent Delaware’s Opportunity Funding program. The weighted funding program provides direct, classroom-based support for low-income students and English learners. By Fiscal Year 2025, funding for the program would more than double to $60 million annually.

Learn more about how public schools are using Opportunity Funding to support low-income students and English learners.
How a Delaware school transformed student literacy in just 3 years
Fourth-graders in Seaford, Delaware, participate in “paired reading,” an essential part of the Bookworms curriculum, while remaining socially distanced. (Photo courtesy of Knowledge Matters)

Editors Note: This is the first of four pieces from a Knowledge Matters tour of school districts in Delaware, in recognition of the state’s new initiative – called DE Delivers – to encourage adoption of high quality instructional materials in its 19 districts. The tour begins in Seaford, which has seen a stunning turnaround in student achievement in a few short years. Knowledge Matters asked Kelly Carvajal Hageman, director of instruction, to write this piece. She came to the district just as it was implementing Bookworms, an English language arts curriculum that was in its infancy and being co-authored by a professor at the University of Delaware. Follow the rest of our series and previous curriculum case studies here.


Seaford is a small, 8,000-person town in southwestern Delaware — 3,500 of those residents are students in our school district. Previously known as the “Nylon Capital of the World,” Seaford, like so many small communities around the country, is struggling to reshape itself after its primary employer, DuPont, left town in 2003.

In the past 10 years, opportunity in the agricultural sector has attracted a growing immigrant population resulting in a doubling of our English learner student population to nearly 25 percent. For a small east coast town, we have a very ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse student body.

Being selected to take part in a national tour of schools that are models for implementation of high-quality instructional materials — referenced here later as HQIM — was a big thrill for us. We are always eager to have guests in our schools; welcoming visitors back after over a year due to COVID was even more exciting.

Seaford Central Elementary School has in many ways served as a “lab school” for Bookworms K-5 Reading and Writing, a relatively new English language arts curriculum that was developed by researchers at the University of Delaware. Our district has been implementing Bookworms for six years now. In that time, we’ve had amazing results.

In 2015, of 19 school districts in the state, Seaford was dead last in every single category and subgroup. Out of all the districts in Delaware, students in our district were least likely to meet Common Core expectations in the 2014-2015 academic year. We weren’t just a “focus school” — we were dangerously close to being taken over by the state.

Today we’re one of the highest achieving districts in Delaware as mea­­sured by English Language Arts state testing results. All subgroups of students (including ELs and students receiving special education services) had impressive gains in student achievement.
2020, 2021 Delaware Teachers of the Year attend Space Camp
2020 Delaware Teacher of the Year Rebecca Vitelli (left) and 2021 Delaware Teacher of the Year Kimberly Stock (right) attended Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala. earlier this month. (See more photos here and here.)

Delaware Teachers of the Year Rebecca Vitelli (2020) and Kimberly Stock (2021) joined teacher of the year representatives from around the country at Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama earlier this month.

Vitelli, an early childhood educator from Colonial School District, represented Delaware this year as part of her 2020 celebration, which was delayed due to the pandemic. Stock, an English language arts and English learner teacher from the Red Clay Consolidated School District, attended the following week.

Even early on, Stock said she recognized the benefits of attending.

"It’s only the first full day, and I’ve already been so touched by soaking up the brilliance and joy of my fellow state teachers of the year," Stock said. "And, the thrill of learning more about NASA and Getting closer to some challenges. Doing my best to make my state proud."

In October, the 2022 Delaware Teacher of the Year will be named. Twenty Delaware teachers were nominated last month.

Selected from among the almost 10,000 public school teachers in the state, Delaware Teacher of the Year candidates are nominated by their districts or the Delaware Charter School Network because of their ability to inspire students with a love of learning, demonstration of professional traits and devotion to teaching. Already leaders among the colleagues in their buildings, each assumes a role representing educators in their districts or the charter network.
Governor Carney announce summer acceleration milestones
The New Castle County Route 9 Library has partnered with the Colonial School District Nutrition Services Department once again to distribute books. Children were able to get free books when they picked up their free meal. Find more resources to support summer reading and Summer Acceleration strategies here.

Governor John Carney on Thursday announced the progress underway with summer acceleration and encouraged Delaware families to take advantage of the free services offered by their districts and charter schools.

The Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) has introduced a variety of programs for Delaware families this summer including Sora/OverDrive, a reading app featuring thousands of titles, Zearn Math, on-demand math lessons, and one-on-one tutoring with the support of Back to Basics, Reading Assist, and many community-based organizations. These programs are in addition to the many plans being offered by the school districts/charters across the state. So far, Delaware students have checked out 9,620 books on SORA and have read for nearly 4,000 hours.

“This has been a challenging year for all Delaware families. These summer acceleration programs offered by community partners, Department of Education, and school districts will help students keep learning this summer and be ready for the next school year this fall,” said Governor Carney. “Delaware families: Take advantage of these free programs. Pick up a great book. Try your hand at Zearn math. Our goal is to help more Delaware children read at grade level by third grade, be proficient in math by eighth grade, and to graduate college or career-ready. These free programs will help Delaware’s children reach those goals.”

As of June 30, more than 400 Delaware educators have been trained on High Quality Instructional Materials, more than 200 teachers and leaders have been trained on Zearn, more than 125 tutors have been trained on Zearn, and nearly 100 tutors have been trained on Core Language Knowledge Arts. DDOE has partnered with 13 community-based organizations at 38 sites to provide one-on-one tutoring for about 5,000 Delaware students.
COVID-19 testing partnership now available in schools
The Division of Public Health (DPH) is announcing a $15M partnership with the Department of Education (DOE) and Quidel Corporation to provide comprehensive COVID-19 testing, processing, and reporting in Delaware schools. Quidel will utilize its rapid antigen tests to provide on-the-spot results in as little as 10 minutes. Frequent testing helps immediately identify COVID-19 cases, prevent transmission, and keep schools open.
 
While the availability of testing in schools is not new in Delaware, this service, which is free to schools and staff, is a complete turn-key solution that includes providing Quidel staff to conduct on-site testing, analyze results and report them to families and the State, taking the burden off of schools. Results are reported back to families within 24 hours.
 
“When used alongside other prevention strategies, like distancing and face masks, testing creates an additional level of reassurance that it is safe to keep schools open,” said DPH Chief Physician Dr. Rick Pescatore. “This program allows schools the best of both worlds, being able to identify potential cases early while continuing to focus on the business of learning.”
 
Screening testing continues to be an important mitigation strategy, which was again recommended in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recently updated Guidance for COVID-19 prevention in K-12 schools.
Other Good News to Share
Delaware Department of Education | www.doe.k12.de.us