Ted Kaufman - United States Senator for Delaware

Kaufman Commends Delaware’s Leadership in the Field of Science Education

June 30, 2010

Mr. President, I spoke about Senator Byrd yesterday. One of the ways you measure anyone is by their friends. The manner in which Senator Harkin just spoke about Senator Byrd shows what a great man Senator Byrd was, to have a friend as thoughtful and as caring as Senator Harkin. They are both a credit to the Senate.

As we continue another school year, I wanted to take an opportunity to commend the excellent science instruction taking place in my State of Delaware. The science educators and leaders in the State have been working for 15 years to create a world-class science program encompassing standards and curriculum, professional development, and science material kits. I am honored to say that I believe world class is exactly the way to describe the science instruction Delaware students receive.

This is not something that happened overnight. It is a process that began in 1995, when a statewide survey was sent out to gather data on the status of science teaching and learning in Delaware. The results, unfortunately, showed that not much science was taught or being learned in Delaware schools. Consequently, several school districts banded together to form the Delaware Science Coalition. The coalition received extraordinary support from the DuPont Company in the form of time, money, and volunteer services. The group wrote and received a National Science Foundation grant, which allowed the districts to have an out-of-classroom science specialist provide science professional development for all teachers, assemble science materials, develop assessments, and meet as a group. Within 3 years, all school districts except one had joined the Delaware Science Coalition.

Today, the science coalition has come a long way. They have a statewide kindergarten through grade 11 science curriculum in place and have plans for a grade 12 curriculum. They have professional development for all science teachers in grades K through 11. They have cost-effective, kit-based science materials. They have assessments that are modeled after international science tests. They also have a systematic and comprehensive approach to reform that includes leadership from the State, district, and classroom, as well as corporate, community, and university-based partners.

Beyond all these coordinated measures, perhaps the most impressive example of how far the coalition has come is seen in the warehouse at the John W. Collette Education Resource Center in Dover. It is truly impressive. To get an idea of what it looks like, you have to think about what it is like to be inside a Home Depot or a Lowes--a warehouse with rows and rows of supplies and forklifts running about. This is what the science materials center looks like at the Collette Center, except the industrial shelving and forklifts are transporting boxes filled with science materials to use in classrooms across the State. Science curricula and materials kits for grades K through 8 include resources developed by the National Science Resource Center, University of California-Berkeley, and homegrown and hybrid units developed with the aid of Delaware's very own teachers. These units are coordinated to introduce life, physical, and Earth science concepts each year and gradually increase in complexity from one level to the next.

All districts share materials, and kits rotate through two or three teachers per year. In order to obtain the materials, a teacher must attend professional development coordinated by the Collette Center. Then the warehouse sends out the kit, teachers and students use it, it is picked up weeks later, it is refurbished, and then sent out to another teacher. By sharing materials, costs are kept to an absolute minimum.

The Collette Center is a remarkable resource for the teachers and students in Delaware. It is unique in that it is the only science program in the country that provides a curriculum aligned to standards, an intensive professional development effort, and a materials support service for public school districts and charter schools throughout the entire State. To create this all-encompassing system, the Science Coalition has at times worked closely with the National Science Resource Center or NSRC. The NSRC is a joint operation of the Smithsonian Institution and the National Academies. I think Sally Goetz Shuler, the executive director of the NSRC, summed up Delaware's accomplishments best when she said:

During the past decade, the NSRC has showcased Delaware as a model to dozens of other U.S. States, countries, and national organizations, including the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the James B. Hunt Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy. Hundreds of leaders have visited the John W. Collette Education Resource Center in Dover, as well as many of [Delaware's] classrooms. While small, your State has been and will continue to be instrumental in catalyzing other states and countries to transform their science programs.

That is from Sally Goetz Shuler, the executive director of the NSRC. That is a powerful statement, and one with which I wholeheartedly agree.

By the way, my colleague, Senator Carper, who has just come on the floor, has also visited the Collette Resource Center in Dover.

Delaware's science program is very impressive and the work is paying off for Delaware's students. When the new science standards and assessments were first implemented in 2001, only 42 percent of eighth grade students met or exceeded the standards. By 2009, 60 percent of the eighth graders met or exceeded the standards. Similar achievement gains have been illustrated at the fourth, sixth, and eleventh grades as well. This is an incredible achievement and I am confident Delaware's science teachers and leaders will continue to build on this accomplishment.

Congratulations to Delaware for continuing to lead the way in science education.

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