Ted Kaufman - United States Senator for Delaware

In Celebration of Science Education in Delaware

June 30, 2010

Mr. President, as we complete another school year, I would like to take the opportunity to commend the excellent science instruction taking place in 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 materials kits.  I am honored to say that I believe world-class is exactly the way to describe the science instruction that Delaware’s students receive. 

Mr. President, 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 being taught or learned in Delaware’s 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 three 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 11th grade science curriculum in place and have plans for a 12th grade 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.  Imagine what it looks like inside a Home Depot or Lowe’s – 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, UC Berkeley, and home-grown and hybrid units developed with the aid of Delaware 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 to 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 it is sent out to another teacher.  By sharing materials, costs are kept to a 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.”

This is a powerful statement and one with which I whole-heartedly agree.  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 eighth graders met or exceeded the standards.  Similar achievement gains have been illustrated at the 4th, 6th and 11th grades as well.  Mr. President, 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 s

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