U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Delaware today to hold a roundtable conversation with Gov. Jack Markell, Secretary of Education Dr. Lillian M. Lowery and others involved with the state's Race to the Top plan. Duncan, Markell and Lowery also joined a local leadership forum with those heading the work in the state's 19 school districts.
The visit offered the opportunity for the Secretary to have open conversations about progress in achieving the goals of the grant and anticipated challenges.
This month marks the two-year anniversary since Delaware's top-ranked plan won one of two grants in the first round of the federal Race to the Top competition in March 2010. Delaware received $119 million for a four-year grant to implement comprehensive school reforms to improve student outcomes.
Duncan characterized Delaware's reform work as "making tough and critically important decisions to help lead the country where it needs to go" and praised Markell, Lowery, state and union leaders, and the business community's commitment to collaboration and leadership in education.
Yet recognizing Delaware has faced challenges as the state implemented reforms, he acknowledged that more challenges likely are ahead for the state, especially as Delaware implements changes to its educator evaluation system that incorporate student growth data.
Governor Jack Markell echoed Duncan's call to work through the challenges.
"None of this is easy, but we will keep moving forward together," Markell said. "We can expect bumps on the road to progress, including starts and stops. If there were only easy answers, there would be no point in asking hard questions. We hope Secretary Duncan got to see in Delaware, we are doing this hard work together and will keep going."
In addition to state leaders, the roundtable included superintendents, charter representation, teacher union leadership including Delaware State Education Association President Frederika Jenner, community and business leaders and other key partners involved in carrying out the goals of the state's Race to the Top reforms. The leadership forum included up to three-person teams consisting of superintendents, local teacher union presidents and school board presidents from districts across the state.
"These teams are made up of strong leaders because they remember what this work is all about: providing better opportunities for our children," Lowery said. "We know some of the changes we have made - and those still ahead - aren't easy. And we know that there are some things we won't get right the first time.
"But we will learn from our mistakes, and we won't let them dead-end us," Lowery said. "We will continue to work together and continue to remember the children for whom we are doing it."
Delaware Department of Education
401 Federal Street, Suite #2
Dover, Delaware 19901
Phone: (302) 735-4035
Fax: (302) 739-4654
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