Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) hosted a summer fellowship program, Educators as Catalysts, designed for exceptional Delaware educators who have a passion for education and want to gain hands-on experience in how policy is developed at the state level. Kevin DiCostanzo, who teaches social studies at Milford High School as well as two Milford High School graduates, Debbie Long and Lindsay Luzier, were chosen to participate in the program.
“We were divided into different groups, each with different goals,” Mr. DiCostanzo said. “I researched how administrators are certified nationwide to determine if we should change the way we do it in Delaware. We are in an accreditation area, the Middle States Commission, which includes several states. We are the only state in the area that does not require a test for administrative level certification. I had to present my research and the panel then asked questions regarding what I found.”
Mr. DiCostanzo said that some of the things he found while researching was interesting. He found that Delaware is one of only seven or eight states who require more than three years of experience before someone moves into administration. He said that Delaware requires a teacher to have at least five years’ classroom experience, something he thought was important as an administrator should have knowledge regarding what classroom teaching is like before they are allowed to supervise classroom teachers.
Ms. Long’s project for the fellowship was developing a rollout plan for new teachers, counselors and psychologists that will require anyone entering education to complete an ethics course.
“The course is provided by ProEthics and is administered through ETS, the same company that administers the SAT,” Ms. Long said. “The requirement begins this school year. It was necessary as education has seen a rise in the number of educational leaders who have acted unethically. As of this year, all teachers entering education for the first time or who are moving to Delaware from other states will be required to complete the course as part of their mentor program. All teachers in the state must go through a three-year mentor program.”
Ms. Luzier said that she worked on a variety of projects, mostly centered around teacher licensure and certification on the Professional Standards Board. She attended meetings with the board’s World Language Specialists and Chris Kenton to discuss amendments for different regulations.
“I researched surrounding state requirements and regulations,” Ms. Luzier said. “I brought the information back to [Chris Kenton, Executive Director of the Professional Standards Board at Delaware Department of Education] to make the final decisions on revisions and additions to the regulation. I was also tasked with researching teacher certification requirements for surrounding states specifically for computer teachers as well as with gathering information on Computer Science standards that have been developed in specific states.” Ms. Luzier said that House Bill 355, which will be reintroduced in January 2017, and is expected to pass, will require all students to be offered a computer science course by the academic year 2020-21. She said that before the bill passes, the state needs to look at creating the courses, develop standards and create certification requirements for teachers.
All three of the educators said that the fellowship was an eye-opening experience. Mr. DiCostanzo said that one of the questions he was asked was related to reciprocal agreements with other states, something that he did not cover in his research, but which he would now like to look into further.
“I would like to know if you get a teaching certification in Delaware, could you go to Pennsylvania and teach without testing,” Mr. DiCostanzo said. “It would be interesting to know how it works. I know that Wilmington College now requires master’s candidates to take the newer version of the School Leaders Licensure examination, but it would be interesting to know how that works in other states as well.”
Ms. Luzier, who has been teaching since 2006 and now teaches third grade at Greenwood Mennonite School, said that she was unaware of the inner workings of the “whys” of the public school system. She said that it was surprising to see what goes into a policy before a final decision is made and it gets pushed out to the school system.
“It takes far more than one mind to create even the draft of a bill, policy or regulation,” Ms. Luzier said. “On a personal level, I have learned a lot about myself and my teaching philosophy. Through the leadership sessions that Maria Stecker put together, we were able to look internally at our strengths, weaknesses, passions and platforms. All things you think you know about yourself until you take a closer look, which teachers generally don’t have much time to do. Chris and Kevin were two of my teachers in high school. It was amazing to be able to work side-by-side with them and I am so grateful to Chris for this amazing opportunity.”
Ms. Long, who teaches social studies at Sussex Technical High School, said that she is excited to see the ethics examination added to mentor program. She said that the program is taken online and there is a version available for administrators, although DOE has not implemented the use of that course yet.