State's educators deliberate on developing human capital
Thomas Payzant of Harvard University addresses the Policy and Practice Institute.
Pictured at the Policy and Practice Institute are, from left, speaker Mike Rutherford, Delaware Academy for School Leadership Director Dennis Loftus and Associate Director Jackie Wilson, and keynote speaker Bradley Portin.
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2:52 p.m., July 14, 2009----More than 300 Delaware educators joined together to discuss “Developing Human Capital at the Building Level” during the seventh annual education Policy and Practice Institute held June 24 in Dover.

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This one-day event was sponsored by the organizations that comprise Delaware's Cohesive Leadership System, including two centers within UD's College of Education and Public Policy: the Delaware Academy for School Leadership (DASL) and the Delaware Education Research and Development Center.

Delaware Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery began the day with an update on Delaware's education initiatives. Thomas Payzant of Harvard University, the morning keynote speaker, inspired attendees to take a systemic approach to thinking about school reform.

According to Payzant, systemic means “improving whole systems, not just a few more good schools; every classroom, not just a few more good ones; success for every child, not just some of them.”

Conference attendees also attended breakout sessions covering a wide range of topics. A crowd favorite was Mike Rutherford's “Logic Model for Instructional Leadership.” Rutherford offered suggestions for turning teachers' qualities and talents into student success.

"Mike Rutherford's presentation helped me think about building upon teachers' qualities. I will be better able to work with teachers using these skills," said Tracy Hudson, coordinator and literacy specialist for the University of Delaware's Southern Delaware Professional Development Center.

Other breakout session topics included “Leading Change,” “Conversations with Superintendents,” and updates from the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Shorel Clark, a third grade teacher at H.O. Brittingham Elementary School in the Cape Henlopen School District, said these national updates brought to the conference “good information about what is coming out of Washington, D.C., and how it will affect us in Delaware -- stimulus money.”

Lt. Gov. Matt Denn arrived during lunch to give conference participants the latest legislative updates on education policy. Denn focused mainly on Gov. Jack Markell's proposed assessment reforms for the state. Also over lunch, the Delaware Association of School Administrators presented awards to education leaders and recognized retiring members.

In the second keynote speech for the day, Bradley Portin of the University of Washington shared his findings from a study of Delaware's teacher leaders. Portin asserted that teacher leadership can positively influence school cultures and dynamics, and ultimately student achievement. Delaware must establish new roles, policies and incentives for teacher leadership, he said.

Final breakout sessions for the day asked participants to reflect further on this topic. Participants discussed the characteristics of teacher leadership, barriers to teacher leadership, and policy recommendations. Stewart Wilson, a teacher at the Charter School of Wilmington and an aspiring administrator, praised these conversations.

“The teacher leadership breakout session was a great way to reinforce the keynote presentation,” Wilson said. “So often conferences do not connect the keynote to a participant conversation.”

More information about the Policy and Practice Institute, including the teacher leadership policy recommendations, can be found at DASL's Web site.

Article by Alison Willey