You may have heard something about Delaware’s Race to the Top which is sometimes coded as R2T. Delaware was one of only 2 states to be funded under this new competitive federal grant. Delaware has won more than $100 million to make some radical changes in public education.
There are 12 separate initiatives in the state’s plan and each district and charter school has agreed to participate. The Delaware State Education Association – the teachers union – is on board as well, which is one of the critical pieces that led to our funding.
Lake Forest is in line to get more than $1.5 million out of this grant over the next 4 years. But there are strings attached – there always are strings.
I won’t go into detail about the multi-page plan we’ve just submitted. (Working on this plan at the same time that we’re closing out school may be the reason I haven’t posted on this blog for awhile.) I would like to tell you about a couple of things.
First is this new idea that the state expects all districts to do. We must find a time for all teachers to have 90 minutes each week to collaborate with each other. The research is clear – student achievement goes up when teachers are given time to write curriculum together, develop lesson plans together, write tests together and confer on what to do to help struggling students. We must devise a way for High School English teachers to meet with High School English teachers; for 1st grade teachers to meet with other 1st grade teachers; for math teachers at Chipman to meet, etc. Of course we can’t ask folks to do this on their own time and expect them to participate. It will have to be during the work day, which is a major scheduling challenge.
We’ll get it done, but the high school schedule will be a problem. So, here’s how we’ll do it at the high school next year. One day each week, students will come to school late. We did this about 13 times last year and it worked out OK, but R2T expects it weekly. We’ll pick a day, maybe Wednesday, and throughout the school year, as long as it is a five day week, students will come to school late on Wednesday. All other schools will be able to get it done without affecting the student schedule.
Here’re a couple of other plans that may be unique to Lake Forest. We hope they’ll truly make a difference in student success:
• Summer home visits for many 6th and 9th grade students and their families to go over what is expected and to talk about college and career planning.
• Home visits with families of new borns in the district to share information about how children develop, the importance of reading to children, language development and creative play. This is expected to help children be better ready for kindergarten.
• Training teachers on the new national curriculum.
• Writing lesson plans for first year teachers to use. The good lesson plan can make a difference in both teacher and student success. Why not give new teachers some proven plans?
It’s going to be an interesting experience. Stay tuned for more on R2T.