Governor’s Statement on Secretary Duncan Stepping Down

Wilmington, DE – Governor Markell issued the following statement in reaction to today’s news that U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan will leave his position in December:

“Secretary Duncan stepped into his role at a challenging time, when our changing economy means that the level of education and training our young people receive, from pre-school through postsecondary programs, is more important than ever,” said Governor Markell. “He recognized that we must improve the resources available for our schools to do their jobs, while doing more to hold our system accountable for serving all students.

“As a country we can be grateful that he never shied away from this hard but necessary work. As a Governor, I particularly appreciate his focus on challenging states to find new ways to increase opportunities for students, while providing unprecedented opportunities for us to implement innovative solutions through initiatives like Race to the Top and the Early Learning Challenge. His determination to get more of our youngest kids the opportunities they deserve raised awareness about the importance of high quality early childhood programs and raised expectations for what should be available to kids from communities that have long been underserved.

“During numerous visits to Delaware, Secretary Duncan showed a commitment to seeking out what’s working and what needs to be improved in our schools, and Delaware students are better off for his efforts. I thank him for his service and wish him and his family well in whatever comes next.”


U.S. Education Secretary Lauds Delaware for Increasing Access to College

Photos from the day’s events

With free community college and an aggressive effort to help students continue education beyond high school, Delaware is recognized as a model for President Obama initiative

 Newark, DE – Highlighting Delaware as a model state for providing students with preparation for and access to educational opportunities beyond high school, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan used the state’s efforts to advocate for President Obama’s America’s College Promise proposal to make community college free. Governor Markell, along with U.S. Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons, joined Duncan for a discussion with students who have benefited from the state’s SEED scholarship, which provides two years of free college tuition to Delaware high school graduates with at least a 2.5 grade point average. They also highlighted recent progress the state has made in preparing students for education beyond high school, with record high graduation rates, record low dropout rates and double the number of high school students enrolled in college courses compared to last year.Duncan

“Today, more than ever, Americans need more knowledge and skills to meet the demands of a growing global economy without having to take on decades of debt before they even embark on their career,” said Duncan. “That means it’s more important than ever that we ensure that the opportunities offered to students today in Delaware are made available across the country. I applaud Governor Markell for having the vision to find new ways to provide access to college and career training programs.

“We also know that those opportunities are only possible for students because of great teachers and school leaders. Their work is why the state is reducing dropout rates while increasing graduation and college attendance rates.”

The SEED program uses state funds to pay for tuition at Delaware Tech and for the University of Delaware’s two-year Associate in Arts program. Markell signed legislation in 2010 to create the Inspire Scholarship – a similar program that would provide qualifying Delaware State University students with the same amount of tuition that SEED scholars receive.Duncan

“No student who would benefit from an education here should be denied that opportunity because of an inability to pay,” said Markell. “That’s the message we send through our SEED and Inspire scholarships and it’s exciting to see the President take that message to community colleges across the country.  But we know we can do more to ensure students have access to the best education and training for them. It’s why we’re giving more students access to college-level courses as well as opportunities to earn professional credentials in growing industries while still in high school.”

Today’s event at Delaware Tech’s Stanton Campus followed last week’s launch of the Governor’s Pathways to Prosperity initiative, which will establish partnerships with Delaware employers, universities, and school districts to prepare students for a bright future in high-demand fields and careers. The Governor and Secretary highlighted the effort today as an important way for Delaware to build on its efforts to prepare young people for good jobs in the new economy.

The state is dedicating more than $1 million of federal grants to support school districts that make the pathway programs available to students, who will take hundreds of hours of specialized instruction and hands-on training. They will have the opportunity to graduate with industry-recognized certificates and college credits.

“I am proud that Secretary Duncan chose Delaware to hold a roundtable discussion on workforce development and college affordability,” said Carper. “These are the kinds of conversations we need to be having as we continue to explore the best ways to ensure all Americans have the opportunity to obtain a quality education so that they can be competitive in the global market place. I think we do a good job of doing that here in the First State, but we can always do better, and I thank Governor Markell for leading a thoughtful discussion among students and business leaders we gathered here at Del Tech today.”

Earlier in the day Duncan and Markell visited Howard High School, where they observed an English class and spoke with teachers, as well as Principal Stanley Spoor, about the remarkable progress the school has made in recent years with support of funds the state won through the federal Race to the Top grant competition. Four years ago, less than half of Howard students scored proficient in math and reading. Last year, 82 percent were proficient in reading and 79 percent were proficient in math.



Governor Jack Markell and Lt. Governor Matt Denn Unveil Strategic Plan for Early Childhood Education

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan visits, highlights President Obama’s Preschool for All proposal

Wilmington, DE – Governor Jack Markell and Lt. Governor Matt Denn presented a long-term, strategic plan today to strengthen and sustain Delaware’s early childhood system. Developed by the Delaware Early Childhood Council, the plan focuses on whole-child development, family engagement and community collaboration to reach milestones and meet established goals over the next five years.

“One of the most important investments we can make is in our state’s youngest children,” said Governor Markell.  “Our vision is to create the nation’s finest early childhood system where quality programs prepare all of our  children for success in a competitive, global economy.  Early childhood development is fundamental not only to later educational success but virtually all facets of a child’s health, prosperity and quality of life.  Studies show:  children receiving quality early care and education are more likely to be successful in school, become better citizens, earn greater wages, contribute more to their communities and require government support.  Education is not only our moral obligation – our state’s economic future depends on it.”

The plan includes four strategic goals:

1.  A Healthy Start for All Children: create an environment where Delaware children become the healthiest in the nation– physically, emotionally, and behaviorally.

2.  High-Quality Early Childhood Programs and Professionals: provide all Delaware children with access to high-quality early childhood programs and professionals.

3.  An Aligned and Effective Early Learning System, Birth Through Third Grade: create a system that enables all children to arrive at school ready and eager to succeed and prepares K-12 schools to further enrich their early learning.

4.  Sustainable System Improvement: develop and sustain policies, programs and partnerships that address the comprehensive developmental needs of all children.

“There is work going on in classrooms all over this state that is not only exciting, but also critically important,” said Lt. Governor Denn. “We are creating a comprehensive early childhood system that serves all children and families in our state and, in doing so, Delaware has the opportunity to change the future in a fundamental and enduring way – to impact the lives of children and their families for generations to come.”

Accompanying the four strategic goals are strategies and objectives for implementation.  They include: strengthening young child developmental screening and access to health services; ramping up participation in Delaware Stars, the state’s quality rating and improvement system for early childhood providers; offering professional development and wage enhancements for early childhood teaching professionals; and building bridges between the early childhood system and the K-12 system using cross sector professional development and the Delaware Early Learner Survey at Kindergarten entry.

“This strategic plan charts a clear path for us to follow,” said Jennifer Ranji, Secretary of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families.  “This work has intensified in focus and momentum in recent years and this plan will further accelerate that activity.  If we help children succeed when they’re young, we can make the hurdles they face more surmountable and their full potential achievable.  We owe them our best efforts.”

“This initiative is about community ownership,” added Dan Rich, Chairman of the Delaware Early Childhood Council. “Mobilization of partnerships across all sectors is the key to sustainability.  This strategic plan was developed over the last year by the Delaware Early Childhood Council with the participation of hundreds of stakeholders across the state. The Interagency Resources Management Committee (IRMC) with the enthusiastic support of all three relevant Cabinet Secretaries – Children’s Department Secretary Jennifer Ranji, Education Secretary Mark Murphy and Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf then recommended the plan to the Governor.  We are grateful for the participation of our partners and their commitment to our implementation efforts going forward.”

Today’s unveiling occurred immediately following a visit by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who toured St. Michael’s School and Nursery to observe its early learning program. He also joined the Governor, Lt. Governor and Delaware’s Congressional delegation to highlight President Obama’s Preschool for All proposal to expand access to high quality preschool for all children. The President’s 2014 budget proposes $75 billion over 10 years to create new partnerships with states to provide high-quality preschool for all four-year olds. Funding would be provided to states and distributed to local school districts, or local school districts in partnership with other early learning providers, to offer high-quality preschool programs. An additional $750 million would provide competitive grants to states to strengthen their early learning systems.

“Under the leadership of Governor Markell, his education team and many others across the state, Delaware is setting a high bar for educational achievement and better outcomes,” said U.S. Sen. Tom Carper. “Focusing on early education is fundamental to student success and building a first-class workforce that is ready to take on the challenges of the 21st century.”

“In child after child, we’ve seen proof that early education results in kids who are better prepared for the classroom and ultimately more successful in school and in life,” U.S. Sen. Chris Coons said. “Developing and implementing a long-term strategic plan shows real leadership and commitment to investing in our kids and ensuring they have every opportunity to succeed. When we invest in our kids, we invest in our own future.”

Building a strong foundation for Delaware’s education system is a top priority for this administration. In 2011, with the support of the General Assembly, the State invested $22M in early childhood education.  Later that year the state won an additional $50M in the federal Early Learning Challenge grant competition that will allow Delaware to significantly increase the number of early childhood programs participating and attaining the highest levels of quality in Delaware Stars – the state’s quality rating and improvement system for early childcare and education programs. Those funds will also support efforts to grow the percentage of low-income children in child care enrolled in quality-rated early learning programs. In addition, an annual investment of $1.9 million will allow 10,000 Delaware students to participate in Delaware’s World Language Immersion Program over the next decade. Students enrolled in the program spend half their school day learning science, social studies and math in either Mandarin Chinese or Spanish.


Photos from today’s events are available on Flickr.