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U.S. Department of Education praises Delaware’s Race to the Top work

 The U.S. Department of Education released a state-specific report profiling Delaware’s first-year progress on comprehensive education reform under Race to the Top. Reports on 11 other states also were released.

“Race to the Top states have made tremendous strides in this first year,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “These 12 states have acted with courage and commitment in taking on ambitious education reform. Their year one work has helped lay the foundation for long-term, statewide improvements centered on doing what’s best for students.”

The First State’s report highlights key accomplishments, including:

· Delaware created a robust district support system that includes efforts such as holding monthly workshops, organizing visits to high-performing schools, and creating an online portal to share effective resources.

· Delaware initiated Common Core (national standards in mathematics and English language arts) training with 79 percent of the state’s teachers.

· Delaware offered free access to the SAT college-readiness exam for 11th graders to increase participation and encourage a higher rate of college enrollment. In 2011, 95 percent of 11th graders participated as compared to 36 percent in 2010.

· Delaware increased teacher and principal recruitment through alternative certification pathways by establishing new partnerships — such as Teach for America, Delaware Leadership Project, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Residency at University of Delaware. These partnerships have signed on around 150 new teachers and principals to train or enter classrooms in high-need schools in 2012-13.

· During Year 1, Delaware supported four low-achieving schools in the Partnership Zone and planned intervention models that will be fully implemented during the 2011-12 school year.

· Delaware awarded two rounds of Academic Achievement Awards, which provided $150,000 to five public schools for significantly closing the achievement gap and exceeding their required federal accountability progress.

The report also recognizes some challenges the state has faced, primarily needing more time to develop student growth measures for the state’s educator evaluation system.

“Over the last year, Delaware made a great deal of progress while also facing some setbacks,” Duncan said. “This is challenging work that will take continued commitment and collaboration. As Delaware’s work continues, we will support their efforts to overcome any obstacles and move forward with reform.”

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Lillian M. Lowery said Delaware’s educators and district and charter leadership as well as partner groups such as the state teachers’ union and business community share in the credit for the state’s success to date.

“For us to continue with positive progress and meet the promises we made in our Race to the Top plan, we must all continue to work together,” she said. “We know implementation will not always be easy, but we all must continue to hold one another accountable if we want all of our children to graduate college- or career-ready, with the freedom to choose their life courses.”

Lowery emphasized that we must not lose sight of exactly that, which is what this work is all about.

“Yes, we made promises to federal officials and we have an obligation to deliver on them. But what is most important is that they were the right promises to make,” she said. “We made those promises because our greatest obligation is to our children. Every student deserves the opportunity for a strong education, no matter where that student lives or what school that student attends. Our Race to the Top plan is about providing every child that opportunity.”

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