Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Short Report from a Delaware Education Workshop

Karen and I drove up to Dover this evening for a workshop with Delaware Education Secretary Lillian Lowery and Chad Robinson, a legislative advisor from Lt. Governor Matt Denn's Office.

This was one of the Back to School Briefings set up to get input on the reform plan for Delaware's schools. Tonight's meeting was focused on the proposal to replace the Delaware State Testing Program (the hated DSTP) with a new test that better measures individual student progress.

There were about 20 people there. They included parents, teachers, school administrators, teacher's union staff, Department of Education staff, and legislators. There was also a young man in the sixth grade, a scout who came with his father as part of his effort to win a merit badge in Government. And there was a college student who had been through Delaware's school system. I give great credit to both Secretary Lowery and Mr. Robinson for their including both of these students in the conversation and for asking, and really wanting to hear, their opinions.

As I understand it, the idea is to have a more flexible test that students take at the start and end of the school year. This would be a test that can be "tuned" to individual students, find their individual starting point at the beginning of the year and measure their progress through the year. It could be used to help guide instruction instead of as a simple flat-line measure of whether or not the student has learned what is required in the standard.

That's the framework. The workshops that are now under way are meant to gain input on the idea and guide the drafting, over time, of the new program. There was good conversation for two hours. The discussion got a little education-wonky; there were some leaders in the teaching professions in the room. But everyone had something to contribute and we covered a lot of ground. It was a very positive session.

I like this approach; it's the same sort of thing Governor Markell has been doing on the budget issue. It is taking the discussion to the people and honestly seeking input.

I think of this as the start of "Delaware 2.0".

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