19 Oct Chatting with Senator Coons about Prominent Delaware Education Issues
As a Hope Street Group Teacher Fellow, I was able to help facilitate a webinar with my state’s U.S. Senator, Chris Coons, where we were able to discuss the issues that are most crucial in the minds of Delaware’s educators. Teachers initially registered questions, comments, and voted on their importance, then subsequently, chatted with the Senator through Hope Street Group’s website. The top issue brought forth was tied directly to the teacher evaluation system that the Dept. of Education and Delaware teachers are developing, to meet the requirements of Delaware’s Race to the Top grant.
The Senator was quick to note his understanding of the anxieties that come with this systemic metamorphosis and his desire to help allay those concerns as best he can. For the people working on the teacher evaluation system, one of the most difficult issues is the development of tying student growth assessments to teachers’ of non-tested subjects evaluations. The Senator seemed well-aware of this difficulty and stated that: 1. teachers need to be participants in the development process and 2. an effective amount time should be provided to develop, test, understand, and implement student growth assessments in a thorough and thoughtful way. He stated that this process could take years and that the consequences of student growth assessments should not label teachers as “failures”, nor have “negative career consequences” for them.
An interesting point Coons made while answering concerns about instruction and high-stakes testing, was that teachers should be given more flexibility in their instruction. While sharing the fact that his mother was also a teacher, Coons stated that the only way to inspire teachers and retain great teachers is to provide them with flexibility in their instruction. This also gives teachers the respect they deserve as professionals.
Being a co-sponsor of the Family Engagement in Education (FEE) Act, Senator Coons hailed teachers’ questions and concerns about the strong link between parent involvement and student growth. As a result of this Act, he is working to obtain funding for such needs as: developing Parent Information Resource Centers (PIRC) and providing guidance and incentives to schools, districts, and states on how to use research-based strategies to engage families. For more information, see his news release.
All-in-all the webinar was very informative to teachers and I hope it was to the Senator as well. I invite you, reader, to view a recording of the Senator’s webinar here and check back for further news at Hope Street Group and Senator Coons’ webpage.