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Appoquinimink School District Reaps Rewards for Aiming High

October 7, 2014 /

It’s been a banner year for the Appoquinimink School District. Students achieved the best standardized test scores in the state.* U.S. News and World Report ranked its high schools #1 and #2 in Delaware, and the College Board named them the First State’s first two-time AP Honor Roll winner (2012, 2014).

Talk to Superintendent Matt Burrows and he’ll tell you that it was Appoquinimink’s focus on the four C’s: critical thinking, communication, creativity and collaboration that made these results possible.

Burrows’ maintains that in order for U.S. students to compete successfully in a global economy, they must be educated to excel at something that cannot be produced at a lower cost elsewhere. That something is creativity and innovation.

The way to achieve it is to immerse students in lessons that challenge them – in non-traditional and exciting ways – to explore their curiosity and pursue their passions.

Burrows points to a new one-to-one technology initiative that will equip every sixth grader with an iPad this year. With access to personal portable technologies in a wireless environment, students can learn at their own pace and ability level, while taking advantage of the world of resources available online. Sixth grade teachers and their students will be trailblazers, meaningfully linking technology to curriculum and instruction in all core content areas.**

Meanwhile, the District continues to expand the most comprehensive world language program in the state. This year, introductory-level Spanish became part of the elementary curriculum. Next year, a Spanish Immersion program will launch in kindergarten. By high school, students have had an opportunity to study a total of six different languages including: Chinese, French, Spanish, American Sign Language, Japanese and Italian.

Chamber -high school

As Burrows’ observed, “Bilingual employees are valuable assets to multinational companies, not only for their language skills, but for their ability to interact effectively with people around the world in either their first or second language.”

Delaware’s Teacher of the Year – Appoquinimink High School French instructor Lea Wainwright – concurs. “If you can function in the language and use it to solve problems, you are working at a proficient level.  It’s a challenge to keep going when you forget a word or get stuck in the language, but that’s what I want for my students.  I want them to persevere, be resilient, and show some grit!  Those lessons, combined with an internationally-focused education, will carry them far and give them confidence to take on challenges.  We need them to be ready to step up and be leaders.”

*The District scored  #1 or #2 in 17 of 21 categories measured.

**The District is also expanding its BYOD (bring your own device) pilot at the high school level.

Delaware’s New “Smarter” State Assessment

Beginning this spring, Delaware Public Schools will implement a new testing system for English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics called Smarter Balanced.

By incorporating national benchmarks (Common Core State Standards) in the test’s design, we will be able to compare student achievement between schools, districts, and participating states to ensure that students are making adequate progress.

The new tests will be offered once a year in Grades 3-8 and 11. And whereas older tests consisted primarily of multiple choice items, the new “Smarter” assessment will include short answer and performance task items that require students to demonstrate a deeper level of critical thinking, listening and writing. This will result in a longer, “untimed” assessment.

Why do we need a new test?

Four years ago, Delaware adopted a set of commonly shared state standards. While curriculum and lesson design remain local decisions, these standards offer a clear articulation of what students are expected to learn in English language arts and math from kindergarten through grade 12.

They are internationally benchmarked to ensure rigor is on a par with top-performing states and nations around the globe. To date, more than 40 states have voluntarily adopted and are working to implement the standards.

Parents are encouraged to try some practice test problems, and consider joining us at an upcoming Curriculum Night Event in Appoquinimink. For more information, be sure to read the District’s electronic newsletter, The Appoquinimink Bulletin. To subscribe, click here.

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