State of the state: Markell’s remarks on education

Here’s the portion of Gov. Jack Markell’s State of the State that addressed education.

The biggest driver for a business when deciding where to locate and expand is the quality of the workforce.  that talent will determine whether the business becomes an innovation leader or gets left behind in the creative dust of its competitors.  The late Steve Jobs put it bluntly: “Apple employs seven hundred thousand factory workers in China because it can’t find the thirty thousand engineers in the U.S. that it needs on site at its plants.”  We need to do something about that.  this is why, when the history of our time here is written, the determined push we are making to raise student achievement will prove to be the biggest game-changer of all.

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Because we have come together – parents, teachers, administrators, private employers, foundations and public officials — to develop and implement a carefully crafted plan that aims high and puts children first, we have been recognized as a national leader in education, winning the nationwide race to the Top competition.  together, we are making great strides.  We have established high standards to ensure that we are being honest with our children about what they need to learn to succeed in the global economy.  We have put in place an improved assessment system so parents and teachers can track student progress and identify quickly when students risk falling behind.  We are supporting our teachers with resources that help them raise student achievement, and we are moving forward to evaluate our teachers in part on the basis of the progress their students make.

In today’s global knowledge economy, those who are not pushing forward are falling behind.  For Delaware to maintain its position of leadership, it is absolutely vital that we keep pressing ahead and I thank Senator Sokola and Representative Schooley for their leadership in this area.  I realize there are those who are uncomfortable with the changes that are being made and that not all of these changes will work exactly as intended on day one.  We will learn from our mistakes and continue to maintain an open dialogue to improve.  but even if you believe what we did in the past was sufficient for those times, it will not be sufficient going forward.  around the world, young people are working hard in schools that are dramatically improving and if we stop our own efforts now, it will be to the detriment of our kids and their future.

So pressing ahead means implementing without additional delay our Performance Appraisal System, with its focus on student progress. These implementation plans have benefited considerably from the advice of hundreds of Delaware teachers and we are grateful to them for their help.  this is a challenging process and it is one that must succeed.

As a parent and as someone who has visited dozens of our State’s schools, I want to ensure our changes help our children not only to score well on tests but also to develop a love for learning that will inspire their imaginations and creativity.  this is a difficult balance, but one that is already being achieved in many classrooms throughout the State and one we should work together to expand.  Because I have visited all of those schools and talked with principals, teachers, and other school staff, I know firsthand that there are truly great things going on in Delaware’s classrooms.  but we need to do a better job of getting the word out.  Howard Weinberg of the Delaware State Education Association asked me to join with him and his association and the business community to let the people of our State know how many great things are going on in Delaware schools.  It’s an invitation I’m excited to accept.

Pressing ahead also means moving forward with our World Language Expansion Initiative.  our students need to master world languages to work with — and compete effectively against — workers around the world.  We’ve already made completion of a world language a graduation requirement.  over the next five years, we’re going to create partial immersion programs in twenty schools, where students will spend half the school day learning in another language.

Finally, pressing ahead means acknowledging what research has clearly established — raising student achievement begins before children enter kindergarten.  I’ve heard this message from hundreds of teachers — children receiving quality early care and education are more likely to be successful in school and in life.  Investments that promise high yields get my attention and, in the realm of public policy, there is no higher-yield investment than this one.  last spring, we joined together to make some of the most significant investments in early childhood education in our State’s history.

As it turns out, those investments are paying dividends sooner than we expected.    The judges of the national race to the Top Early Learning Challenge noted our commitment and rewarded us with significant additional federal funds.  here is our plan: (1) the professionals who care for our children will have the proper training; (2) the early childcare facilities where our children spend their days will have the best teaching and learning tools; and (3) the successes and challenges of centers will be closely monitored to ensure continual improvement.  that is our formula for success and we expect to raise the percentage of high-need children in quality-rated programs from 20 percent to nearly 80 percent over the next four years.  to let us know where our kids stand when they start school, we will introduce a new kindergarten assessment.  I thank DSEA and our kindergarten teachers for their work with us on this initiative.

State of the state: Markell’s remarks on education


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