COMMENTARY: Two needed school improvement programs in Delaware

Thorough, research-proven program and cost-effective information about these two needed programs has been given to the following elected and appointed state education decision-makers: state legislators; the governor, his appointed secretary of education and state school board; state PTA and Delaware State Education Association.

All have ignored this valuable information I sent them as chair of our Delaware Coalition. All are directly and indirectly supporting the corporate world’s sole agenda, which is to destroy our public schools so they can be privatized as cash cows, like they are trying to privatize Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid. Their key weapon in this continuing destructive assault is superimposing irrelevant, disconnected, costly, useless standardized-test-driven projects, accompanied by draconian regulations that place straitjackets and handcuffs on teachers, other building-level program staff, students and their parents.

The first of these two thoroughly research-proven program and cost-effective school improvement programs is the Imagination Library program provided by Dolly Parton’s nonprofit Dollywood Foundation. Since it began in 1997 in her home county in East Tennessee, it has provided over 70 million free, age-appropriate books once a month from birth through ages 4 and 5 to preschool children in 46 states, Australia, Canada, England and Ireland. The total cost for 12 books a year per child is $32. For over a decade, the Tennessee Governor’s Books From Birth program has provided over 24 million of these books to all of their state’s preschoolers through age 5.

Many state and national research studies inform us that preschool children enrolled in this Imagination Library program accomplish the following over children not receiving these books each month: much higher achievement in school; higher graduation rates; and going deeper into higher education. Our Delaware state education decision-makers proclaim they’re interested in early childhood development and education.

For less than a mere $2 million each year, all of our state’s 57,500 children from birth through age 5 would receive 12 age-appropriate Imagination Library books each year.

The second readily available school improvement program corrects the serious sleep deprivation experienced by our adolescent middle- and high-school students caused by a too-early school start time. Many research studies are available on the internet under “Adolescent Sleep Deprivation,” which explain the many serious health and school problems caused by lack of healthy sleep. Many automobile accidents and suicides are attributed to sleep deprivation.

These research findings, available on the internet, were accomplished by many national organizations, including the following: American Pediatrics Academy; National Association of School Psychologists; and the National Sleep Foundation.

All of these research studies revealed that no matter what time our adolescents go to bed, they don’t fall asleep until around 11 o’clock. This research informs us all adolescents need a minimum of 8½ hours of sleep on school nights, and preferably 9½ hours. The simple, no-cost solution to this serious health and school problem is to change their school start time to at least 8:30 a.m. and preferably 9 a.m. Our elementary-school students get needed sleep time by falling asleep earlier and should have the earlier school start time.

Many of our nation’s education decision-makers have understood these research findings and changed to a needed school start time for their adolescent students, and found it eliminated these serious health and school problems. They also found the later start time did not interfere with students’ extra-curricular activities such as participation in athletic sports and part-time jobs.

All parents of adolescent students and taxpayers should access this research information under “Adolescent Sleep Deprivation” on the internet, understand its importance and insist our state and local education decision-makers quickly implement no-cost needed school start times for adolescent students.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Floyd E. McDowell Sr. of Bear is chairman of the nonprofit, nonpartisan website. He can be reached at 832-2799 or via email at

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