Sadé Truiett is a local leader in education policy, focusing on girls and minority youth. She has taught middle school English, run political campaigns and directed nonprofits. She resides in Dover.
Delaware’s education ecosystem could use a technological boost.
Despite numerous education-reform efforts, many students still struggle to meet their full potential, weighing down the state’s economy and threatening the future workforce. Now, as teacher shortages threaten to worsen learning outcomes even further, we should embrace technological tools to help foster better learning environments and higher levels of academic achievement. Our leaders in Washington must recognize how critical digital learning tools are for our students and support policies that incentivize innovation and expand their development and availability.
Delaware spends over $1.4 billion annually on education, with no measurable return on investment. The struggles of schools, on the other hand, are clear. Only 86% of high schoolers graduate in four years, and an estimated 18,000 people who work in the state choose to live in Pennsylvania to avoid sending their children to Delaware schools.
Our schools’ lackluster performance weighs down the economy by decreasing the size of the state’s talent pool and discouraging workers from settling down in local communities where they would otherwise spend money and pay tax. Local economies suffer as a result, and both state and local governments have less revenue available to address important issues — including investing in education.
Failures in the education system are weighing down civic engagement, as well. Studies have consistently shown that higher levels of education correspond to more active citizens, but flagging educational performance is leading young adults to be less involved in civic life. In a time of so many conversations about democracy and justice, we owe it to students to transform the education system into one that will inspire civic involvement for a lifetime.
As is the case across the country, breakdowns in Delaware’s education system have hit marginalized communities the hardest, deepening existing inequalities. In October of 2021, Delawareans for Educational Opportunity and the NAACP of Delaware announced a settlement in a lawsuit filed in 2018 claiming that the state did nothing to address disparities in resources provided to low-income students, students with disabilities and English language learners.
Technology holds tremendous promise to improve learning outcomes and address inequalities among students in Delaware. Digital learning tools can supplement traditional instruction with engaging and intuitive lessons, helping students better grasp material both inside and outside of the classroom. The power of artificial intelligence and machine learning can also help tailor programs to students’ individual learning needs. As shortages push class sizes ever higher, these tools can be a godsend for teachers and students alike.
Digital learning platforms can only be helpful, however, if they can be successfully developed, brought to market and distributed. This requires a robust national tech ecosystem in which startup entrepreneurs have the resources they need — from access to capital to cloud computing services — to create new innovations in edtech. Smaller tech firms must also have the option of acquisition by larger companies, which both rewards the hard work of entrepreneurs and enables new tools to be distributed widely and effectively.
It is abundantly clear that Delaware’s education system needs to change. Tech will be a key piece of the puzzle, helping keep students engaged and helping ease the burden facing our overworked teachers. Embracing edtech will prepare the next generation for successful careers and help power Delaware into the future; our elected officials must recognize this and pursue policies that help, not hinder, the next generation of digital learning tools.