After reviewing my FOIA request to Governor Jack Markell, I started to wonder why I have more questions than answers. Why was there such a disconnect between the Rodel Foundation of Delaware and the Vision Network in recent years? It’s obvious Herdman runs the show for Rodel and Vision. I began to question what the Vision Network has been up to. So I looked at the Vision Network website. Take a good look at the Vision Leadership and Steering Committees. Take a good long look at the names on here.
If you look at their FAQ on their website, it seems like all the right words are in there, but keep in mind what Vision has really been about: the future conversion of public school districts into charter schools…
The Vision 2015 plan is credited as being one of the most comprehensive and coherent education improvement plans in the nation, designed to ensure that every public school student in Delaware has access to an excellent public education. Unlike prior initiatives, Vision 2015 addresses every aspect of the public education system. It builds on the best of what has been done, while recognizing that we haven’t yet done all we can to ensure that every Delaware child is prepared for success in life. The plan was developed by a coalition of public, private and civic leaders through the state, with significant input from parents, educators, and students, as well as research on best practices from around the world. The Vision Coalition and the Vision 2015 plan is committed to implementing well-researched policies and practices and creating the partnerships and public support that will ensure educational excellence in our schools.
The plan was created by a 28-member Steering Committee, composed of educators, community leaders, business representatives, and leading public officials. Well over half of the Steering Committee’s members have taught in the classroom. Four Steering Committee members represented several of Delaware’s largest employers, for whom the quality of our future workforce is a great priority. In addition, about 500 teachers, principals, parents and community representatives participated in work groups and focus group meetings throughout Delaware to help the Steering Committee develop the plan. This plan was written by Delawareans, for Delaware.
The Vision 2015 plan was established in 2005 by a coalition of education, policymaker, business, community, and foundation stakeholders. It is an informal partnership governed by the Leadership Team and advised by the Steering Committee and Working Groups.
Yes, the Vision Coalition is composed of Delawareans and the Vision 2015 plan was designed specifically for Delaware public schools. Yet, numerous states across the country have sought guidance from the Vision Coalition on how to implement similar efforts elsewhere. Delaware should be proud of the leadership that it is providing in the national effort to transform its schools to world-class.
Race to the Top is the federal government’s largest competitive grants program in public education, designed to spur innovative state‐based school reform plans. It is funded with $4.35 billion in federal stimulus dollars under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Of that, $4 billion has been distributed to states for their Race to the Top plans, and $350 million is being used to support new, improved student assessment systems. In March 2010, Delaware was awarded a first-place grant of $119 million to improve education in Delaware public schools.Four of Vision 2015’s priorities align directly with Race to the Top’s goals. Two additional Vision 2015 goals—early childhood education and school funding—are not part of Race to the Top, yet continue to be an important focus for the Vision 2015 Implementation Team. We are proud of Delaware’s multi‐decade commitment to reform, especially the creation of the Vision 2015 plan, which provided a four‐year “on‐ramp” leading to Delaware’s Race to the Top award.To learn more about Race to the Top, watch this Content Delaware video.
Despite numerous reform efforts over many years—most of which were targeted to isolated programs and supports–just one in three Delaware public school students meets national standards in reading and math. And just one in four Delaware public school students who are behind in math in 3rd grade will catch up by the 10th grade. Isolated interventions haven’t work at the state-wide scale that is required to serve all of our students. Race to the Top funding—tied to comprehensive plans for improvement—is providing Delaware’s districts and schools with an incredible opportunity to advance our education system to maximize student achievement and to ensure that all students graduate college- or career-ready.
We compare our education system to that of other countries because we have to. Our graduates are competing increasingly for jobs with graduates from other nations. Disappointingly, the United States now ranks in the bottom third of more than three dozen nations (that also offer universal K-12 education) on an international survey of student performance.
The Vision 2015 plan is focused on ways to use existing funds more efficiently and effectively for the direct benefit of Delaware’s educators and students. Getting a handle on this is critically important, especially now. Race to the Top funding ends soon, so we believe we must change the underlying funding systems to ensure that improvements are sustainable.In 2008, the Vision Coalition, acting on recommendations in the Vision 2015 plan, helped facilitate two key studies related to school funding in Delaware: the LEAD Committee’s Cost Efficiency Study, which identified up to $158M in expenses that could be reallocated to the classroom (only small portions of that amount have been saved so far), and a parallel study on how public funds are raised and allocated to our schools. The intent of the second study was to present the means by which funding could be allocated based on the individual needs of students (e.g., special education, English language learners, gifted and talented, and low-income). Currently most school funding is apportioned on a per-child “unit” basis that does not allow for different needs.In terms of additional support, some programs, such as those that would provide extra learning time or expanded access to early childhood programs, have only modest financial support, yet they remain extremely important. For example, Governor Markell’s $22M early childhood budget proposal, which was passed by the General Assembly in 2011, will help improve the quality of early childhood services. When considering costs, we must ask: “What will it cost if we don’t invest in our children?” By investing earlier and smarter, and by insisting that public schools spend the public’s resources more efficiently, we will save in the long run by revitalizing our economy, creating healthier communities, and helping individuals become more productive citizens.The data speak for themselves:
• A high school graduate earns $600,000 more during his/her life than a dropout.
• A college graduate earns $1.4 million more than a high school dropout.
• And, with more students staying in, and graduating from, high school and college, the costs to society of incarceration and Medicaid will be cut considerably.To learn more about Delaware’s school funding, watch this Content Delaware video.
Creating a “needs-based” funding formula will go a long way toward making sure that schools serving English language learners, students with disabilities, high-need populations, and gifted and talented students have the resources they need. The Vision 2015 plan promotes quality education that fits each student’s individual needs and interests. While some students need remediation, others need accelerated learning, and funding should reflect those differences.The Delaware General Assembly has taken small steps toward needs-based funding, principally for special education students, yet more can be done to ensure that funding is targeted to support every child’s success.
We encourage innovation throughout the public school system. We know that students learn in different ways and have different interests. Some may thrive in a traditional classroom, while others may need more hands-on learning; some may want to specialize in a certain subject like the arts or science or foreign languages. Public schools should offer choices like these – whether in a traditional public school, public charter school, or public magnet school.
The Vision Coalition believes in laying the foundation for success in any field—and in life. We’re not saying that all students absolutely must go to college, but fairness demands that all students have the education that gives them the choice and the opportunity to do so. Today’s high school graduates will enter a workplace that is vastly different from that of 10 and 20 years ago. These days, postsecondary training is required for most jobs, whether it’s an assembly line that requires computer use, farming that uses “GPS” data, or business professions that require advanced analytical thinking.
These areas are essential to a well-rounded education, and they very often engage, deepen, and sustain a child’s interest in learning. The Vision 2015 plan’s emphasis on innovative instruction and multiple school options is geared, in part, toward providing more learning opportunities that enrich and go beyond the core subjects of reading, writing and math. We hope to provide principals and their leadership teams with greater flexibility to design their own programs within the state’s curricular framework, and to offer families more choices, such as schools that specialize in the arts.
The Vision Coalition recognizes that good teaching is the most important in-school factor in student success. That’s why the plan proposes more competitive salaries, more decision-making for those who work the closest to students (especially principals and their leadership teams), professional development geared toward classroom effectiveness, fairer evaluations, and a career path that helps teachers advance even if they choose not to leave the classroom. Those who are effective should be rewarded. Those who need extra help should get it. The plan also recommends additional supports for teachers and paraprofessionals, such as parent involvement and early childhood education.
The Vision 2015 plan strives to give current principals more autonomy in hiring and budgeting and to ensure excellence among the pool of future school leaders. For example, we support the Delaware Leadership Project, launched in 2011, which is helping prepare aspiring principals for placement in the state’s highest-need urban and rural schools. The 15-month fellowship responds to the realities of what it takes to lead a high-needs school and utilizes problem-based and action-learning methodologies in classroom and school residency settings.
Involved parents and families are essential for student success. The Parent Teacher Association (PTA) of Delaware supports the Vision 2015 plan. PTA leadership participated actively in the development of Vision 2015. Terri Hodges, Delaware PTA President currently serves on the Vision Coalition’s Steering Committee.
The organizations represented have provided loaned capacity to help staff meetings and take notes, share information with their stakeholders, and host meetings. National and international experts have provided their advice and perspectives to the process. The Parthenon Group has provided consulting support.
There are a lot of issues to cover. We know we haven’t uncovered or resolved all the issues that need to be tackled, and that’s why we are inviting Delawareans to join the process to engage in the development of the final plan. Share your ideas at meetings, online, and continue to be in touch.
Earlier this year, when the Vision Coalition began the effort to envision Delaware public education for the next 10 years, building on the successes over the previous decade, this effort was informally referred to as “The Next Decade.” As the work progressed and began to take shape the Vision Coalition Leadership Team updated “The Next Decade” working title with a name for the draft plan: “A Vision for Education in Delaware in 2025,” or ED25.
And who are their funders?
The Delaware DOE, that makes sense. They love their charter schools! The Longwood Foundation, owned by the famous Delaware DuPont family. I’ve noticed in many charter school board minutes that this foundation is also offering grants to many of our state’s charter schools. Bank of America. Didn’t they donate a building designated for charters up in Wilmington? The Rodel Foundation…now that’s a shock! It seems to me this Vision needs a bit of focus cause it seems to be narrowed down to charter schools. Yes, this is the legacy of Governor Jack Markell: the selling out of Delaware public education to corporate interests.