New emphasis on advanced education for Delaware public schools
Published: Monday, September 30, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 30, 2013 23:09
The State of Delaware’s official website announced the Delaware State Board of Education approved a $300,000 grant on Sept. 19 in favor of Delaware Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn’s Accelerated Academic Achievement program proposal.
The Accelerated Academic Achievement program, as stated on the official website, focuses on creating and funding a more challenging curriculum that emphasizes advanced courses in reading, writing, math and science for public schools in Delaware.
The proposal was initiated by parents and teachers who demanded the state do more to challenge academically advanced students, Lt. Governor Denn said.
“There are very few public schools that an elementary or middle school student is able to do advanced work on a consistent basis during the school week,” Denn said. “Some teachers are very good about providing the extra material for kids in the classroom setting, but there are very few schools for students who can have the opportunity to do that work.”
While the main focus is on the four core subjects of reading, writing, math and science, “it would be great if a middle school or elementary school were to propose a history or other humanities program that used reading material that was a year ahead of state standards of that grade level,” Denn said.
The minimum regulation for courses to be considered a part of the program is at least six months ahead of the standard state level minimum, Denn said.
The program targets academically advanced students, but, Denn said, it is ultimately up to the districts and schools who are applying for funding to determine the participants.
While the basis for measurement is standardized state or school tests, President Teri Quinn Gray of Delaware’s State Board of Education said the programs differ across the state depending on students’ academic performance and special interests. She said some programs require teacher recommendations and a student essay.
Both Denn and Gray said major emphases of the program are inclusivity and diversity in the group.
“The intent of [the program] is to set together a diverse group of students who have unique interests and capabilities to take on work in the classroom and beyond,” Gray said. “Not only in college career-ready opportunities but give them opportunities to explore even more in their K through 12 experience in Delaware.”
When it comes to the achievement gap, the Accelerated Academic Achievement program requires recruitment of a variety of backgrounds, specifically including those of low socioeconomic backgrounds, both Denn and Gray said.
While some students may not qualify at first for their school’s accelerated academic achievement program, Denn said, students will be able to apply for it throughout their schooling.
“The [achievement] gap will be addressed but not closed, because that requires long investment, but when you talk about the achievement gap between all the students in Delaware, the students who are lagging have access to programs like this,” Gray said.
In the long term, Denn said, this program is important because the state is increasingly trying to attract jobs that require a higher level of education.
“Many of the companies are concerned about the employee’s quality of life and want their children attending schools that they can be challenged academically,” Denn said. “Programs that can challenge schools at whatever level they present is important to businesses as well.”
For Gray, since the program hasn’t been implemented yet, she said it was hard to tell what the ripple effects will be.
“We want to see more students getting [advanced academic opportunities]—in their K through 12 daily structure in schools—increased probability for success in college and workforce,” Gray said. “And I think ideally you want a more educated, more skilled populace that attracts more businesses and economic opportunities to the region.”
Despite the limited number of programs, Denn said, his hope is that once parents begin to see these programs popping up, they will clamor to have similar programs at their children’s schools and will speak to their legislators.
Applications for the program from individual schools or district are due Oct. 25 and will be reviewed and awarded in November, Denn said.
Center Director for the Delaware Education Research and Development Center Joan Lee Buttram said she believes that what will really make a difference is how many schools apply and the amount of students who are introduced to the program.
“There are 16 districts,” Buttram said. “I’d like to see that all of them apply for it and see what ideas they come up with and how extensive they are.”