"Educational excellence and equity for all" is a guiding principle of New Directions, Delaware's standards-based educational reform initiative. Excellence occurs when an instructional system provides each learner with a high level of challenge. Equity means that each learner is afforded the appropriate support he or she needs to succeed. The New Directions Vision Statement, adopted in January 1995, states that educational reform in Delaware is focused on "improving students academic achievement" and preparing students to "lead full and productive lives as citizens and workers in the 21st century."
New Directions is based on the principle that all students can learn and consequently will be held to high academic expectations of knowledge and performance. Equity must be an integral part of standards-based educational reform if we are to improve academic achievement and prepare all students for the future. It is the responsibility of all Delaware educators to ensure that the content standards, curriculum, instruction, assessment and school practices are designed to provide diverse student populations with an opportunity to learn. To confirm this commitment to all students, the following Equity Principles are set forth:
Achieving "educational excellence and equity" will be challenging. It will take an on-going commitment by all who have a stake in the success of our schools. Students, families, communities, educators and policy makers must all be held accountable for fulfilling their specific responsibilities the educational process. Consequently, meeting these principles for equity requires that all stakeholders work together to implement the following initiatives:
Teachers will use a variety of instructional techniques in the classroom to accommodate the various learning styles, learning rates, and strengths of diverse student populations. Educators will find ways to identify and remove school-based cultural barriers that contribute to the creation of disparities in student achievement. Classroom instruction will be based on individual student needs and allow students to progress as far and as fast as they are able.
Assessment will be reviewed for cultural bias by teams of specially trained Delaware educators and community members. This process assures that assessments measure what students know and what they are able to do without creating an advantage or disadvantage based on the students' race, ethnicity, gender, disability, special gifts/talents, limited English proficiency, or socio-economic status. Assessments will allow students to demonstrate their skills and knowledge in multiple ways. Assessments will be aligned to classroom instruction and reflect real-life experiences of our diverse student populations.
Training and resources will be provided to Delaware education professionals to effectively deliver teaching strategies and other initiatives to meet the needs of diverse learners. Training and assistance will be provided to districts on strategies to enhance the recruitment of school staff that reflect the ethnic and racial diversity of our student populations.
Assessment data will be disaggregated for race, ethnicity, gender, disability, special gifts/talents, limited English proficiency, and socio-economic status, and reported annually. This information will enable educators to review achievement data to determine whether diverse students have been provided equal access to education.
Delawareans of diverse backgrounds will be equitably represented on New Directions commissions and committees charged with educational reform in order to provide a broad perspective on educational issues and assure that the needs of all learners are addressed. Families and community members from diverse backgrounds will play a significant role in educational decision making in the schools.
The Department of Public Instruction will work collaboratively with the Delaware Educational Research and Development Center to develop a research agenda on equity issues and a statewide process to address related research questions. This information will then be disseminated to developers of standards and assessments and to schools.
Delaware must develop and use its resources wisely to meet the complex social, economic, and political challenges of the next century. Providing "educational excellence and equity" for every student is the best way to ensure that students become productive workers and community members.