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Report highlights Delaware schools 'beating the odds'


report released today looks at how three high-needs Delaware schools are “beating the odds” by supporting strong instruction and student learning through effective educator support, collaboration, and evaluation practices.


The Southern Regional Education (SREB) research “focuses on learning from teachers in high-needs schools who are effectively helping their students defy historic achievement statistics.” SREB studied three Delaware schools in Fall 2015: Capital School District’s North Dover Elementary, Indian River School District’s North Georgetown Elementary and Kuumba Academy charter school in Wilmington.


The schools – selected from a larger potential group by the Delaware Department of Education for inclusion in the study because they consistently outperformed other schools of similar student demographics in measures of educator effectiveness, educator retention and school climate over  several years -- are from the quartiles of schools with the highest percentage of students from low-income families and the highest percentage of students of color.


While researchers noted some differences – the schools represent each of the state’s three counties including urban, small city and rural settings as well as traditional district and charter governance – they mostly found similarities across the three schools that might “begin to explain their success in helping students beat the odds.”


All three schools’ teachers demonstrated deep commitment to their students: “Regardless of the paths they took to become teachers, or how many years of teaching experience they have, they are all devoted to their schools and passionate about teaching,” the report said. Researchers also noted that all of the schools administrators – each of whom was once a teacher – “share clear instructional focus and high standards for student outcomes.”


But the report found that “even more distinctive than the drive and talent of individual teachers and leaders is how the staff at each school learn and work together for student success. School leaders and teachers set and reinforce high expectations, model and scaffold effective strategies, and provide daily encouragement and assistance.”


North Dover Principal Suzette Marine was among those who credited this for her school’s success: “We are ‘type A’ people. We have very high expectations of ourselves. We are competitive with ourselves.”


Samantha Bennett, a second-grade teacher in her school with 19 years of teaching experience, agreed, saying she always thinks about how to improve.


“I still don’t know everything. I’m always reflecting on what I can do better,” she said.


This report shares SREB’s findings from each of the three schools and describes the central characteristics and practices that contribute to their success. The school profiles are intended to spur reflection and conversation between state, district and school leaders who are working to improve teaching. The conclusion offers lessons for policymakers and the state’s education leaders, particularly regarding how to continue to promote educator effectiveness policy and practice.


“This report confirms what other research has shown us: The most important in-school factors to strong student learning are the strength of the children’s teachers and school leaders,” Secretary of Education Steve Godowsky said. “We must continue to focus and invest in the people leading our schools and classrooms so we can replicate the type of student success children in these schools are achieving statewide.”

Alison May
(302) 735-4006