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Head of state's largest teacher's union talks education issues


The ongoing battle over redistricting Wilmington schools has dominated the headlines this year, but other education issues continue to percolate.

On the latest edition of The Green, Delaware State Education Association president Frederika Jenner addressed a number of those issues –as well as the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission's plan to move city students in the Christina School District into the Red Clay School District.

Jenner serves on WEIC and says that while she's not opposed to redistricting, she does not believe that simply changing district lines is not by itself the answer to improving city schools.  She feels school funding and other issues must also be addressed.

But she adds that even if the the redistricting plan fails in the General Assembly this month, WEIC's work will not be in vain.

"I do think this is going to lead to change," said Jenner.  "Whether or not it leads to change right now, based  solely on the recommendations of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, I think something is going to happen because something has to happen."

The head of the state’s largest teachers’ union also discussed student testing.  Jenner is among those on a task force taking inventory of the various tests students take each year.  Its report is due this month, but Jenner is not optimistic about what it will produce.

She says little guidance was given to districts on how to format their testing reports, making what they delivered hard to compare to each other.  And she says their recommendations varied substantially.

Her biggest concern is that ultimately the task force will not focus on standardized tests.

“The last thing I or my members would want o happen would be a recommendation that the kind of tests the teachers themselves give – that are part of their math program or part of their reading program or part of their science or social studies program – that those be the places where changes are made,” Jenner said.

Jenner also weighed in on education spending.

The budget writing Joint Finance Committee recently cut new education spending proposed by Gov. Jack Markell,  including higher starting pay for First State teachers.

Jenner says DSEA certainly supports higher starting salaries, but she isn’t sure plan Gov. Markell sought was the best one.

“It initially gave a greater salary bump, but then it sort if plateaued after 5 or 6 years," said Jenner. "Our concern was that educators would come to Delaware, starting working here in our schools anf then after 5 or 6 years say I can make our better somewhere else.  Thank you Delaware for training me and helping me through my most challenging start-up – now I’m going to go work in Maryland or Pennsylvania.”

Jenner was more disappointed that a pilot program to offer higher pay for teacher leaders who stay in the classroom rather seek administrative position will not go forward.

Jenner will join 8,000 educators in Washington, DC later this month to discuss education issues at 2016 National Education Association Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly. 

Tom Byrne has been a fixture covering news in Delaware for three decades. He joined Delaware Public Media in 2010 as our first news director and has guided the news team ever since. When he's not covering the news, he can be found reading history or pursuing his love of all things athletic.
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