What Are “Delaware Readiness Teams”? Could We Expect Toddler Rigor In Our Future?

The Delaware Dept. of Education put out a press release about the Delaware Readiness Teams.  What are they?  They are a combination of early learning providers, community organizations and non-profit companies that are banding together to promote early learning in children.  I’m sorry, but every time I see Rodel involved in anything with education, I immediately get suspicious.  I really try not to, but I know if they’re involved, there is probably something more going on.

I went to a Senate Education Committee meeting a few months ago where Susan Perry-Manning, the Executive Director of the Office of Early Learning at the Delaware DOE, gave a presentation in an attempt to get the Senate Education Committee to commit to the $18 million dollars Governor Markell allocated to early learning in his FY2017 proposed budget.  The goal is to catch special education issues early and get kids reading.  I have several problems with this.

One, if a child is getting special education it means they have a disability.  You can’t cure a disability.  Sure, you can help them with it and make accommodations but it doesn’t make a neurological disability go away.

Two, there is NO funding for statewide basic education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  Can someone please tell me what the point is in attempting to avoid special education for kids and then they go to Delaware public schools where their disability will most likely manifest.  But because Governor Markell has some sort of beef with funding this beyond what regular students get, these kids will get royally screwed.

Three, there was more mention of the words “corporation” or “corporate” than any other education committee meeting I have ever attended.  My fear is that early learning will become so corporate that it will steer away from good education to profit centers.  If we have learned one thing through corporate education reform it is this: trying to turn public education to profit is extremely harmful to children and schools.

Four, if the eventual goal is to get Social Impact Bonds going in these early learning centers, that is VERY dangerous.  You can’t hedge bets on student outcomes.  Especially students with disabilities.

Five, parents across the state are going nuts about the massive reduction in recess time for students in Kindergarten.  Kindergarten Rigor is real and it is happening throughout our state.  Children develop at different levels and not giving them enough play time is insane.  Any doctor or psychologist will tell you this.  If this spreads to earlier ages, I view this as something almost evil.  When are we going to let kids be kids?

Six, the original funding for Delaware STARS was provided from the US DOE for an early learning Race To The Top.  That program ran out last year which is why we have such a high price tag in the Governor’s budget.  What happens when the State of Delaware stops providing the funding and it trickles down to the local level?

Seven, the Rodel Foundation.  The proud helpers of Common Core, high-stakes testing, teacher evaluations based on those tests, charter school growth, and much, much more.  I pray John Carney doesn’t submit to Rodel’s bidding the way Jack Markell has since he became Governor (and well before that as well).

I’m going to have to do a wait and see on this.  While it is a very good thing for all this community input and collaboration, I have serious concerns with it.  Read the below press release from Alison May at the DOE and make sure you click on the links in it.  While the Great Starts Delaware website doesn’t go into my concerns, keep them in the back of your head as this moves forward.  I don’t mind many things Great Starts is already doing, but my concern is with the future.

Delaware Readiness Teams celebrate impact on kindergarten readiness

More than 100 representatives of the 21 Delaware Readiness Teams from across the state gathered in Dover today to celebrate family, school, business and community engagement in promoting children’s success in early childhood and beyond. The Readiness Teams are a partnership between the Delaware Department of Education’s Office of Early Learning and private funders and supporters — including the United Way of Delaware, the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, PNC Foundation, and Nemours — that promote grassroots collaboration to support young children’s healthy development.

Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky recognized the dedication and hard work of educators, students, parents and community partners whose collaboration helped the teams make an impact on children’s readiness for school and life.

“This is the kind of progress only achieved through dedicated efforts by many thoughtful early learning educators and school community supporters,” Godowsky said. “It takes the partnership of families, teachers, school and district leaders and community members to build the foundation that will support children’s intellectual and social-emotional learning. We have the opportunity to learn from these models of collaboration.”

Delaware Readiness Teams bring together families, early childhood programs, educators, and community and business leaders to build strong links connecting birth to third grade. Teams include the members and representatives of the faith community, fire and police departments, state agencies including the Division of Public Health, health promotion and service organizations, libraries, parent teacher organizations and associations, and more.

The teams’ work supports professional development among early learning providers and elementary schools and strengthens families and communities through activities including: holding parent resource fairs, partnering with libraries and the Summer Food Service Program on bookmobiles, co-hosting kindergarten academies for incoming kindergarten students with districts, building school-community gardens, and shared professional development of early learning providers and elementary school teachers. They also work to increase on-time kindergarten registration and boost early learning provider participation in Delaware Stars.

Ten of the teams recently collaborated to win grants from Prevent Child Abuse of Delaware totaling $90,000 to promote family outreach, expand professional development for providers, host kindergarten academies and provide bedding, bags and books for homeless children. Teams have received awards from the USDA, published children’s books, created resource kits for families at libraries, and created teaching toolkits in areas such as fine motor development.

“Delaware Readiness Teams make a difference in local communities by focusing on the ‘Readiness Equation,’ which means, ready families + ready schools, + ready early learning providers + ready communities = ready children.  Readiness Team volunteers are going above and beyond to ensure their community’s children have the opportunity for a great start in school and life,” said Madeleine Bayard, Vice President of Policy and Practice for the Rodel Foundation and chair of the Delaware Readiness Team Advisory Committee.

To find out more about local teams and to join a team in your community, visit www.greatstartsdelaware.com/readiness.html.

Find photos here.

Alison May

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