What Is Vision 2015?

Vision 2015 is a far-reaching plan developed by education, government, business and civic leadership, and citizens in Delaware to deliver world-class public education for all Delaware students. It also laid the foundation for Delaware’s first-place position in the federal Race to the Top competition that is part of President Obama’s challenge to forty-five states to radically improve our public education system. Created in 2006, it represents Delaware’s answer to the most pressing issue of our time: a quality education for every Delaware student. This collaborative effort was led by a 28-member Steering Committee and nearly eighty Work Group members whose investigation spanned the globe to reflect the best practices from inside the state and around the world.

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Sobering statistics are pressing for rigorous reform. America is still the world’s strongest economy, but many other countries are rapidly gaining on us. Asia will produce a stunning 90% of the world’s new scientists in the next five years. These other competitive countries are focusing on their education systems to drive their success. They have more rigorous standards and respect their teachers and principals more highly. Their pupils work harder, go to school longer, and put in hours of homework each night. Their rules and structures are framed around performance. Unless we speed up progress, we may doom our children to low-paying, low-opportunity jobs. Since 1776, each American generation has made it possible for their children to pursue the American dream; is the baby boomer generation going to be the first to fail at this commitment? The fact that 1 in 10 of every African American and Hispanic student attains a postsecondary degree is unacceptable.

The economic and moral challenges could not be higher, and the cost of needed change will be expensive, but the cost of progress is nothing compared to the cost of inaction. We are living in an educational time warp; our system and structure were built for another age. Teacher pay is based on degrees and seniority rather than effectiveness and success in the classroom. Useless rules and policies keep teachers, principals, and families from giving students the education they require, while many of our buildings and facilities are out of date. Too many decisions are made too far from the individual pupil.

Vision 2015 has broad consensus and is not a grab bag of initiatives, but a multipart agenda for lasting change to be implemented one student at a time. The Vision 2015 system starts with the student at the center and answers the central question: How can we best tailor learning so that each student succeeds? The Vision is based on six building blocks:
• Setting our sights high, with a high-quality, challenging curriculum and extra instructional time to give students a good chance at meeting the higher standards;
• Investing in early childhood education, knowing that this experience translates directly into long-term success;
• Developing and supporting great teachers who are able to customize instruction to each and every child, because great teachers are the most important influence in producing high-achieving students;
• Empowering principals to be effective school leaders with enough knowledge, authority, and flexibility to get effective teaching results in every classroom;
• Encouraging instructional innovation, involving families, and requiring accountability, so that all involved – teachers, principals, parents, administrators, business and community leaders, legislators, and students – are clear about their own responsibility for improving achievement;
• And establishing a simple, fair funding system in which resources follow individual students and are allocated based upon their individual needs.

Other systems may have utilized one or more of these building blocks, but Delaware will be the first to address them in such a holistic and systemic way. And it can’t come one moment too soon. The United States ranks 20th globally in math performance. Our students compete with international graduates from China, Germany, Russia, and India, all of whom are well prepared, motivated, and disciplined. Only five states have standards updated to align with real-world demands of college and work. Only eight states have graduation requirements regarding rigorous courses such as Algebra II. Only six states have tests connected to college admission or placement requirements. Only four states hold high schools and colleges accountable for preparing their graduates for success in the 21st century. Delaware students do not spend enough time on academics, partly because of an obsolete nine-month, 180-day school year.

We need to ensure that our standards are as challenging as those that the highest-performing countries expect their students to meet, to have classroom-based professional coaching so that teachers get the support they need to deliver high-quality instruction to each student, to require state funding for 140 additional school hours a year, and to expand distance learning to allow real 24/7 online learning capabilities. States and districts that have raised their standards have experienced strong, steady gains in achievement, even by former struggling students. We know that students, parents, and teachers will rise to the challenge.

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