Recently, I had the opportunity to represent Delaware at NBC’s Education Nation, and I participated in the “Race to Deliver” policy conference at the University of Delaware, followed by the first of a series of Conversations About Stronger Schools. A good deal of the discussion centered around the national “Race to the Top” contest and its impact on education reform.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan launched Race to the Top in part because he recognized the connection between improving public education and improving our nation’s economic security. The competition gave states an opportunity to demonstrate how serious they were about making their schools stronger, how detailed their road maps were to get there and how broad state support could be for those efforts. Delaware came in first place, in part because we worked together.
People across the state — educators, employers, administrators, parents, even thousands of students — spent hundreds of hours contributing their thoughts to a compelling blueprint for improving our schools and have been working together to put those plans in place and demonstrate results.
Central to the plan is the belief that the quality of teaching is the single biggest determinant of a child’s success in the classroom. That remains our No. 1 priority. It’s why Delaware is improving the way we prepare, hire and support our teachers. We will be evaluating how the best teachers in our schools succeed, and applying those lessons to developing teachers of the future. We will teach our school leaders how to be better instructional leaders to their teachers. We will also better compensate teachers proved to be effective in the most challenging schools.
Our plan was not designed as an opportunity to win Race to the Top. It was designed as an effort to give our children and our teachers new means to succeed and new, more thorough measures to determine that success.
Winning Race to the Top brings some additional resources to help finance some of our planned improvements in public education.
It also brings a degree of national focus to our small state and thus gives us a chance to demonstrate to many potential employers that what works for us in Delaware — responsible plans, with broad support, that improve both educational opportunity and accountability — is a great reason for them to put Delawareans to work in the future.
This race is a marathon, not a sprint. It will be complex and challenging, requiring levels of collaboration rarely experienced in public education reform. We need your support and involvement in this process.
The complete schedule for the Conversations About Stronger Schools – public town hall meetings up and down the state – can be found here. Please help us spread the word!
You can also submit your suggestions and feedback through ideas.delaware.gov.
This post was originally published in The News Journal.