This school year will be my second as executive director of Teach For America in our state and my fourteenth as a mother, volunteer and observer of the education landscape in Delaware. I’m excited to have this forum to share what I experience, and to bring you guest posts from teachers in their words. While I’m relatively new to leading TFA, I’m not at all new to obsessing about how our state is preparing kids for their futures.
I moved from Hong Kong to Delaware with my husband in 2000. Having grown up in New York and lived out of the country for a decade in enormous, far away cities, I noticed first the smallness and the calm. After 14 years, I no longer see or feel calm. My waking (and often sleeping) moments are combinations of concern and hope about our collective ability to create an educational experience that engages all Delaware students in rigorous, meaningful work. In Hong Kong, the culture of achievement and drive for excellence was as electric as it was ubiquitous. Education was the currency of opportunity.
Our state’s small size, and the potential that drives it, is both a reality and a daily source of inspiration to me. What if Delaware led the nation in student achievement and innovation? What might that mean for families? For our economy? For our arts, culture, and entrepreneurial momentum? What does it really take for all kids? How long does it take?
There is no universal road map to equity for children. But, there are investments, initiatives and practices backed up by science and study that we know to be pieces of a far more powerful whole if embraced by communities and insisted upon by parents. Those pieces include things like access to quality early childhood education, talent development throughout our system, retention in K-12 classrooms in our low income communities, and college readiness. A quarter of our kids in Delaware do not finish high school. What are they doing every day? What are their options now? Eighty percent of our high school students are not prepared for college and career.
Next month I’ll introduce you to two teachers from our program who have started the school year downstate and upstate. They spend their days and nights with the colleagues and parents with whom they work immersed in the potential and challenges of their students. I have never learned more in my life than this past year walking the halls with hundreds of teachers, parents, students, and school, district, policy, and community leaders. We all seek awareness for ourselves, transparency in our systems, and the persistent pursuit of excellence.
We all have a voice. I hope this column spurs you to bring education into your daily conversations and to share your thoughts and experiences now and forward.