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Delaware teachers union and school district work together to transform school

NEA affiliate joins Vice President Biden, Ed Secretary and Delaware Governor for tour

WILMINGTON, DE - March 21, 2011 -

Vice President Joe Biden, Delaware State Education Association (an affiliate of the National Education Association) President Diane Donahue, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Delaware Governor Jack Markell visited the school to learn more about collaborative efforts happening there.

The visit follows the February labor-management conference sponsored by the Department of Education, in partnership with NEA and other education groups. Teams from 150 school districts gathered in Denver, Colo. to shared strategies on how to improve student achievement through collaboration.

“The changes at Howard High School demonstrate the power of collaboration,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association. “Educators, administrators, unions and policymakers are all committed and working together for students.”

As part of Delaware’s Race to the Top grant, Howard High School was selected to be in a “Partnership Zone.” The school district and the New Castle County Education Association agreed to a plan that provides extended learning time for students and targeted professional development for educators. The school has small learning communities designed to integrate instruction, enhance student/teacher relationships and identify struggling students early. Educators get collaborative planning time and they are working with administrators to examine and improve the curriculum, realign resources, and boost parental/community involvement.

“This isn’t a cookie cutter approach,” said Van Roekel. “The strategies and supports being implemented here are tailored to fit the needs of this individual community.  We should heed that lesson in other schools across the country, particularly those that are struggling. NEA calls these schools Priority Schools and helping the students in those schools is our top priority.”

Howard High School of Technology is Delaware’s only urban career and technical high school. It boasts a residency program that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math (or STEM.) DSEA President Donahue joined federal and state leaders for a tour of a classroom science lab during the visit.

“Career and technology programs help keep students engaged in school because they can see their possible career future,” added Van Roekel. “Educators at Howard High School are dedicated to making sure students walk across the stage ready for college and careers or the next stage in life.”

Collaborative efforts are underway throughout the state. Last month, district administrators, school board members, and the local association presidents from Delmar and Caesar Rodney attended the labor-management conference in Denver, Colo. Association and district representatives from Delaware participated as teams to develop Race to the Top district plans. The Delaware State Education Association joined a dozen state employee unions to help the governor’s office develop a plan to reduce costs for pensions and health care. DSEA has worked collaboratively with the Delaware Department of Education and the governor’s office on various committees to revise the state teacher evaluation system, the state tenure statute and the statute on accountability for schools, districts, and the state.

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing
3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Ramona Parks-Kirby, (202) 822-7823,