NEWARK — The Caesar Rodney Institute recently announced the hiring of Dr. Tanya Hettler as director of its Center for Education Excellence.
As part of her duties, Dr. Hettler will lead policy research efforts that strive to better Delaware’s public education. CRI is a public policy nonprofit that backs research for programs promoting economic freedom, limited government and civil liberties.
Dr. Hettler enters her position at CRI with a background in counseling, education, psychology and community development, receiving her bachelor’s degree in psychology at Penn State University and both her master’s and Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Delaware.
Prior to her hiring, she spent several years as a psychological clinician, but after taking an interest in the betterment of education, she ran for the Brandywine School District board of education in 2021. Though her campaign came up short, Dr. Hettler advocates for greater school transparency on her blog, “Deep Thoughts With Dr. Tanya.”
“I’ve learned a lot in the past year running for school board, and I’m so grateful for that,” she said. “I had much more trust in our school districts than I should have, and I’m sure most parents think that the schools have everything under control, but when you dig a little deeper, you see they don’t.”
Education reform for the state’s public schools should be a top priority, according to Dr. Hettler, whose two children attend BSD schools.
Before accepting the CRI role, she had been studying a variety of topics regarding public education, she noted, adding that critical race theory, masking and school choice are just a handful of the issues to which she is dedicated.
She said she hopes to tackle all these issues and more as director of CEE.
“We’re still trying to decide which direction to go first, but we want to emphasize all issues within the system and let parents know what their kids are learning,” she added.
Dr. Hettler said a key goal is transparency for parents. She is hopeful that, along with CRI, she can press its importance within Delaware schools and that legislation will change it for the better.
One of the measurements of Delaware’s educational system is standardized test scores. According to the 2021 College Board SAT Suite of Assessments annual report, the First State had the highest percentage of students who took the SAT: 96% of those eligible. However, Delaware totaled the lowest average score in the nation: 984.
Dr. Hettler hopes that her efforts with CRI can help school boards statewide regain a focus on academics.
“There’s issues, and when you have things like low test scores, it is going to have a huge impact on students’ futures, their jobs, everything,” she said.
“I just think that Delaware and the entire country has taken their eye off the ball. We’re focusing on other issues and don’t realize that we’re letting academics go by the wayside.”
The effect the pandemic has had on education also needs to be addressed, according to Dr. Hettler. She believes that students are further behind than ever as a result of remote learning and the lack of accountability it presented.
She said this is another reason school boards need to act now on reform, and she hopes that, as director of CEE, she can promote that need.
“My focus is primarily on the education part, and we’re just trying to find out the biggest-bang-for-your-buck way to help our schools,” Dr. Hettler said.
“We need to help our schools do better and find out how we can get everyone on board with that. We’re just trying to have the biggest and most positive impact that we can make on our schools and our students.”