New Education Dept. arm to focus on low-performing Wilmington schools
As a new school year begins, Delaware’s Department of Education has a new arm dedicated to high-needs Wilmington schools. It’s called the Department of Innovation and Improvement, and former Brandywine School District assistant superintendent Dorrell Green is leading it.
Gov. John Carney appointed Green to head the new department last month. It aims to support struggling schools, especially those in Wilmington. The new department is designed to take a more supportive approach to engaging with – and helping – Wilmington schools and others struggling across the state achieve their goals.
"If you provide teachers and principals with additional assistance in terms of approaches to poor children - children from disadvantaged backgrounds - you're going to have better results," Carney said. "But you have to do things differently if what you're currently doing isn't working and that's the case in those schools for those kids."
Green says he’ll start by analyzing the current status of Wilmington’s high needs - or priority - schools. The priority designation was given to six city schools in 2014 because of their low reading and math scores.
Green says that process must include understanding other factors at play in students’ lives, like trauma - and training teachers how to respond. He says a program called Compassionate Schools – being piloted in several First State schools - is doing just that.
“Where we’re looking at the impact of trauma and trauma-informed learning and brain research and understanding what trauma does to not only children’s developmental brain and how they connect to learning, but also what it does for educators in terms of looking at secondary and vicarious trauma," Green said.
Based on his own teaching experience, Green also plans to emphasize relationship-building in the classroom, and beyond.
“It’s really taking it to understand what happens in the community? How can we connect them to learning opportunities and help them become resilient?”
Green worked for several years as a teacher in some of the Wilmington’s struggling schools including Bancroft Elementary, Stubbs Elementary and Harlan Elementary. His key to success: establishing a working relationship with students.
“I would always wait for my students, and children to come to allow them to have some say in actually how we structured the learning environment and the space," Green said. "And that would give us immediate buy-in. And interesting enough, the custodial staff would never have to clean my classroom at night because my students –through working with them in that way – took pride in it.”
Green adds cultural competency is crucial, to avoid imposing a value system on students without understanding where they’ve come from.