Professional Development Center for Educators (PDCE) Math team members working with teachers from several schools on professional development training at Talley Middle School in Wilmington prior to the start of the fall 2019 school year. The PDCE will now merge with the like-minded Delaware Academy for School Leadership. | PHOTO COURTESY OF UD

NEWARK – For nearly two decades, University of Delaware researchers and consultants have worked with school districts in the state and around the country to help teachers and administrators improve instruction.

Those efforts were largely divided between the Professional Development Center for Educators (PDCE), which worked with teachers, and the Delaware Academy for School Leadership (DASL) that worked with administrators though.

Gary Henry, dean of the College of Education and Human Development | PHOTO COURTESY OF UD

Starting this fall, the university is moving to a more holistic approach for training in launching the School Success Center, a merger of the two programs. The university is currently interviewing applicants for the center’s first director – candidates include in-state and out-of-state leaders – and expects to have someone in place for the fall semester said Gary Henry, dean of the UD’s College of Education and Human Development.

The reformatting of the training programs is part practical – both of the centers’ current leaders have announced plans to leave their roles this year – and part a refocusing of how to help schools grow, Henry said. It’s an issue close to his heart, as he’s studied how to achieve equitable outcomes for all students in highly segregated schools

“One key to success that we’ve found is making sure that leaders and teachers in a school are growing together in terms of their understanding of the curriculum and their ability to implement the curriculum,” he explained.

The UD program saw this in action through work done recently in the Laurel School District in Sussex County, where they worked with staff to improve literacy rates for students, Henry said.

“We combined our centers on that project and their literacy scores shot up. So, we knew that we had a model that could work, and we just wanted to put it into more systematic use,” he said.

The Delaware Conference on Public Education held at Dover High School featured this breakout session on collaborative reading and research-based professional learning. | PHOTO COURTESY OF UD

Part of the challenge for schools today is that administrators may have been out of the classroom for some time and may not be familiar with the scientifically-based curriculum that teachers are advised to use today, Henry explained. A principal observing a teacher may not know then whether they are using appropriate methods or not.

“If everybody’s on the same page when those observations are done, then there’s a shared view of what that instruction should look like,” he added.

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