SOLUTIONS FOR WILMINGTON SCHOOLS
Education and policy specialists from UD support commission to improve schooling in Delaware’s largest city
On a chilly autumn night last November, a diverse group of educators, policy makers, researchers and community leaders gathered to discuss one of the most complicated and long-standing problems in Delaware: how to reform under-achieving schools in the city of Wilmington and New Castle County, and how to address educational inequities that disproportionately affect students of color.
This was the third meeting of the Redding Consortium for Educational Equity, a special committee created by the Governor and General Assembly, and presenting that night on his school turnaround research was Gary Henry, who had just been recently appointed dean of the University of Delaware’s College of Education and Human Development.
Although Henry was new to Delaware at the time, he was all too familiar with the problems facing the state’s schools and most vulnerable students. Henry is a nationally recognized expert in education policy who has devoted much of his career to researching school turnaround efforts in North Carolina and Tennessee, where he collaborated with legislators and policy makers to implement solutions for struggling school districts.
Those solutions, as he would go on to inform the committee, required new policies, new partnerships, and the political courage to spend a whole lot of money to attract top talent and reduce teacher turnover.
“Novice teachers turn over at higher rates than traditionally prepared teachers, and they’re more likely to leave schools that serve low-income populations,” he said, noting that many of the difficulties facing Delaware’s schools are similar to those he studied in Tennessee. “Our challenge is to get more effective teachers in front of students.”
Seated next to Henry during the presentation was Dan Rich, professor in the Joseph R. Biden, Jr. School of Public Policy and Administration and an outspoken advocate for education reform in Delaware. Over the years, he had seen countless school reform efforts launch to great fanfare only to flounder in the face of political or public opposition, especially in the city of Wilmington. This time, Rich hoped that things would turn out differently.
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