Two Red Clay Consolidated School District programs were among seven statewide winners of the 2013 Superstars in Education awards.

The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce announced last spring that the Preschool FRIENDS Program at Baltz, Mote, Shortlidge, and Warner and the Ninth Grade Transition Academy at John Dickinson High School were chosen to receive awards.

The Preschool FRIENDS (Families Reading to be Invested, Engaged, Nurturing, Devoted, and Supportive) supports young children’s reading skills by actively involving families in the learning process while the Ninth Grade Transition Academy creates a sheltered, nurturing environment to ease students’ transition from middle school to high school.

The program began in August 2010 to serve preschool students in the Warner and Shortlidge feeder patterns. Small class size, parental involvement, and the use of standards-based materials for literacy were key ingredients in the program’s success. Testing results showed over 90 percent were proficient in kindergarten literacy at the end of the class.

A classroom library provides books and literacy based materials for children to take home and share with their families. During class the preschoolers receive instruction on phonemic awareness. Both the children and their families are taught effective methods for learning letter names, sounds, reading words, and writing words, insuring that quality instruction is provided both at school and at home.  When asked about the program, parent Gina Campanella said, “I loved the level of parent involvement. I loved the way the program helped to make the school an extension of the family and a place where all were valued and embraced.”

The Ninth Grade Transition Academy (NGTA) at John Dickinson High School was created to address the lack of promotion of students in their initial year of high school, and to increase academic achievement in mathematics. In the 2008-09 school year, prior to the existence of the academy, 43 percent of Dickinson students were retained in grade nine; in 2011-12, only 17 percent of ninth graders were retained.

The academy provides a structured system to maximize student success, both academically and socially, and creates a positive culture where success is expected. This school-within-a-school model recruited exceptional staff members, offered professional development in best practices, provided common planning time, and instituted a double math initiative for all ninth grade students. Student engagement was required and the “5th Block Program” was created to allow students to spend additional time at school to make up missing assignments.

While the initial goal of increasing the success of students new to high school was achieved, many positive effects occurred throughout the building. These included increased school morale and pride, improved student discipline, increased 10th grade state assessment scores, and increased student recognition for academic accomplishments. At Dickinson there is a positive school climate, an expectation of success, and collaboration among the faculty. The culture creates an environment where “doing the work” is expected and is the norm.

Since 1989, the Delaware Chamber of Commerce and its affiliate, The Partnership, Inc. have honored Delaware educators who have created, implemented, and sustained a unique program or teaching practice that raises student achievement and shows measurable results. The Superstars Awards Program is supported and funded by the business community. The annual recognition dinner was held at the Chase Center on the Riverfront, to honor the seven state-wide winners, on May 6.