University of Delaware
Jacquelyn Wilson (standing), director of the Delaware Academy for School Leadership, at a workshop in Hawaii.

DASL in Hawaii

Delaware Academy for School Leadership trains the trainers


8:52 a.m., Nov. 26, 2012--While almost 6,000 miles and the Pacific Ocean separate the two states, the conversation about leadership and school improvement is the same in Delaware and Hawaii. Both are small states focused on training administrators and teachers to improve learning outcomes for their students. Delaware has the advantage of being one of the first states to receive Race to the Top funding and having considerable expertise in school leadership through the University of Delaware’s Delaware Academy for School Leadership (DASL).

As a center within the College of Education and Human Development, DASL focuses on recommending improvements to education systems, through enhanced data collection and leadership training. It places a strong emphasis on collaboration, sharing data and influencing key leaders.

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When officials with the Hawaii Department of Education (HIDOE) began to consider ways to improve their system, they contacted DASL to provide training for their school leaders. DASL staff developed an eight-day training session on how to make data-driven decision-making changes and fine-tune their instructional leadership. 

In September, more than 500 people attended a statewide conference in Honolulu, sponsored by Hawaii’s Professional Development and Educational Research Institute (PDERI). Jacquelyn Wilson, director of DASL, was the keynote speaker, presenting “Leading Change: Adjusting your Sails.” DASL associates Sharon Brittingham and Emily Poag joined Wilson in a two-hour breakout session titled “Creating a Culture of Continuous Improvement.” 

Throughout the rest of the week, DASL trained aspiring leaders, new principals and vice principals, and school and state leaders to use data to evaluate existing strategies and track the effectiveness of change over time. 

All training sessions involved giving attendees interactive problems to solve. Exercises such as these help attendees think through school-based problems and see the implications for their work.

Keileen Isono, vice principal of Castle High School, said she appreciated the exercises. "Participating in the thinking/strategy game provided me with a two-fold challenge involving in-depth analysis of a real life simulation. Each of my group members cooperated by thinking out loud, giving constructive feedback and making careful decisions that, together, led to a successful group outcome."

DASL has been working with PDERI over the past two years to develop training modules that would best suit their needs. Wilson said she has been very pleased with the relationship. “We have found the staff at PDERI to be knowledgeable and eager collaborators as we share ideas and strategies related to preparing both aspiring and practicing school leaders.”

Donna Kagawa, administrator with PDERI, agreed, saying, “Our partnership with DASL has reenergized us to more effectively support our school leaders in the rapidly transforming field of education. The DASL team has demonstrated an exceptional level of professionalism, customizing professional development for a range of needs and providing expertise in cutting edge research-based practices.“

While conference evaluations showed that participants enjoyed their sessions, the true measure of success has been hearing that their programs were successfully implemented. “I was very excited to use the strategies presented by the DASL team,” stated Jamie M. Dela Cruz, principal of Ka’elepulu Elementary School. “We decided to implement the head-heart-hands table talk tool in our instructional leadership team to facilitate honest, productive discussions. Other groups found it intriguing and we were asked to share it at the next district meeting. Mahalo for an excellent training with exceptional, usable tools.”

In addition to their national efforts, DASL continues to provide services to Delaware schools. DASL officials have recently initiated several new leadership programs – the Superintendent/Executive Leaders Seminar Series, Executive Coaching and the Executive Leadership Academy. 

Article by Alison Burris

Photos by Emily Poag

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