For the first time ever, we had 40 unique, small group conversations called “Idea Exchanges” at our Ninth Annual Conference on Education. Matched to the core areas of Student Success 2025, the Idea Exchange brought together education, government, nonprofit, and business leaders around a variety of topics, from innovative practices happening in classrooms around Delaware, to helping students achieve success in college and careers.

Each Idea Exchange table concluded its session by naming one “big idea” that can make an impact in that particular focus area. Below you will find a distillation of all 40 “big ideas.”

Early Learning


Topic Big Idea
Addressing Social-Emotional Needs Early social-emotional interventions such as universal preschool, ongoing coaching for staff, and supporting families’ basic needs.
Building and Supporting the Early Learning Workforce Action plan and execution of action plan. Greater focus on early learning compensation and turnover reduction. Determine an organization to coordinate professional development in early learning and across kindergarten through third grade.
Engaging with Local Readiness Teams Define the scope and sequence, metrics, development, and outcomes for Delaware Readiness Teams.
Reading by Third Grade
  • Free all-day pre-school for all age-appropriate students
  • Learning through play philosophy
  • Expeditionary learning
  • Extended year calendar for all schools
Strengthening Families Through Supports Create a singular hub that effectively communicates resources via an app that shares info directly to parents/caregivers.
Transitioning to Kindergarten
  • Formal kindergarten transition outreach in 0-5 sphere and community “hubs ”like churches, medical centers, grocery stores
  • Simplify kindergarten registration statewide with online, electronic data collection
  • Localize information resources for families both online and in-person in schools (with flexible hours) and with family advocates/coaches

Personalized Learning


Topic Big Idea
Designing Schools of the Future Support student agency
Developing Students’ Social Skills All educators and families will develop their own social and emotional skills in order to support their children’s social and emotional development
Empowering Youth Through Collective Impact Increase project-based learning efforts that can be sustained

  • “Think outside of the classroom box – be flexible”
Integrating Arts and Academics District-by-district pre-k opportunities for focused arts-based learning supported by:

  • Public awareness campaign across stakeholders
  • Pre-service (education majors) curriculum and training
Integrating Health and Academics Integrate with the healthy neighborhoods initiative to expand voice (community) and policy (i.e. HB 234) to consider health across K-12 age span.
Investing in Technology Infrastructure No Big Idea card submitted
Reimagining Learning Through Technology Create a network of example K-12 schools that are using technology to personalize learning (and learn from each other)
Supporting Students Experiencing Childhood Trauma Schools work collaboratively to implement, train, and build capacity on trauma-informed, culturally sensitive, and restorative practices
Transforming the Student Experience Using student voice and choice to create opportunities for academic growth
Integrating Supports for Students Transparency of equity gaps and resources. Take the opportunity to re-direct resources to implement 21st century strategies

Postsecondary Success


Topic Big Idea
Connecting Education and Business Create a state-wide business/education council to brand and align education and business
Engaging Students Through Counseling Supports Work to create supports to engage parents and support students at early ages through exposure to options, creating a plan for after high school, following students’ hopes and dreams, and meeting families where they are or through technology
Increasing Career Exploration Opportunities Start with middle school exploration to create broader trajectory to high school choices and beyond
Increasing College Access Advocate for earlier, integrated, and stronger college advising from pre-k through age 16
Planning Education to Support Career Goals Changing education stereotypes (good vs. bad, options/flexibility) through a statewide marketing campaign
Preparing Students for College and Career All youth and young adults must have access to meaningful work-based learning experiences and peer/professional mentoring

Educator Support and Development


Topic Big Idea
Advancing Teacher Leadership Create a support network for teacher leaders to collaborate across the state. EdCamp Style!
Aligning Teacher Supply with School Needs
  1. Support and retain current educators so that they become champions of the profession
  2. Educate the public and engage in a dialogue that elevates the profession
  3. Reimagine the education pipeline to align with workforce demands and future student needs
  4. Re-envision and modernize our education programs to reflect the reality of all K-12 systems
Collaborating on Digital Student Resources Professional development time will be provided for teachers to engineer and collaborate on institutional products. Teachers will pilot other teachers’ products and provide specific feedback for improvement. Create a sustainable culture for collaboration.
Ensuring Equitable Access to Excellent Educators Elevate the profession through continual improvements in teacher preparation, more frequent and more thoughtful observations, and earlier hiring focused on competencies, empowering principals to be instructional leaders
Preparing and Supporting Principal Candidates Commit to aligning the principal pipeline to better meet the needs of educators and students, from preparation through ongoing professional development. Conduct a needs assessment of principal landscape, especially in high needs schools. Better prepare principal candidates by expanding experiential learning (e.g. internships, residencies, etc.), and overhaul the rigid unit count funding system to support these programs.
Preparing Teacher Candidates Restructure teacher preparation so that there is a balance between theory and practice
Supporting and Developing Principals Build a toolkit and provide staff development for principal supervisors to support and develop principals

Fair and Efficient Funding


Topic Big Idea
Advocating for English Language Learners
  • Change the perception of the English learner “deficit” mentality
  • Prepare a benefit/cost analysis that demonstrates how the cost to educate English learners is low but will multiply over time due to increased dropouts and incarceration
  • Establish weighted funding as a solution
  • Form a board of state agencies, community partnerships, and organizations to leverage possible grant opportunities to gain the support from industry, government, and communities
Erasing Inequitable Access to Great Teachers Fund schools based on needs, recruit and develop diverse teaching profession, make resource equity gaps transparent, and direct resources strategically
Measuring Education Investments
  1. Make cross-agency (DHSS, DDOE, DSHA, KIDS, Early Learning, DOL, courts, prisons) investments to better align and integrate education, and social supports to low-income students
  2. Develop meaningful outcomes and measures at local level that support developmental outcomes critical for academic success
  3. Identify current models of success and replicate
Supporting High-Needs Students Better coordination of existing social support services for districts until the funding formula can be adjusted to order to integrate more services to high-needs schools closest to home, school, and community. Students’ needs should be served closest to their community.

System Governance, Alignment, and Performance


Topic Big Idea
Addressing Needs Through Community Partnerships Improve and centralize the collaboration between community partnerships, schools and parents
Collaborating Across School Boards Develop a culture where boards empower and support their schools and school leaders.

  • Listen to parents
Finding the Best Educational Fit Create pilot program consortium for all Wilmington elementary schools to provide a summer enrichment program for academics and exploration. Teachers and leaders from all schools working together to form relationships with students and each other.
Overcoming Barriers to Family Engagement
  • Parent-to-parent community-based support (train; hotline)
  • Empowering parents to connect schools prepared to connect/receive that engagement (professional development, designated staff)
Transitioning to ESSA ESSA gives us an opportunity to engage the community to assess and map the educational assets to drive student success and deconstruct our archaic funding system so that we can support schools effectively.
Connecting Research to Schools and Communities Build a culture statewide that prioritizes research and its role in supporting and improving education.