Our Public High Schools
Public schools face bigger challenges than ever, yet many succeed where others fear to tread. Herein, the high schools ranked, with the latest on testing programs, new charters, the budget crunch and more, so that you may plan your child’s education wisely.
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Jack Perry fought to change charter school laws. Now the state is taking a break to see what else needs changing.
The state in June closed the books on all new charter school applications for at least a year while it examines related legislation, which has not been reviewed for 13 years. “There were some questions,” says DSEA president Diane Donohue.
Perry’s Prestige Academy Charter School in Wilmington opened in September 2008 after a new law allowed same-sex charter schools. Prestige, the first same-sex charter in the state, teaches a college program to minority and low-income boys from families who can’t afford a similar private school education. It was one of the last charters approved before the moratorium. Aspira Charter School of Delaware, Gateway Charter School, First Responder Charter School and a planned all-girls school also slipped in under the wire.
“People have been critical of the department for not authorizing tons of charter schools,” says outgoing Secretary of Education Valerie Woodruff. “But one of the things that we’ve learned is that if we aren’t strict early on, we end up having a lot of problems.”
Charter school founders have the desire, Woodruff says, but they don’t always have the know-how. Some charters struggle with finances, curriculum and teachers early on, she says. Yet some view the moratorium as an attack on non-traditional schools.
“I think moratoriums can be dangerous,” Perry says. “The charter movement has been successful in Delaware, and parents have been very happy with the choice. I don’t know if a moratorium is necessary to strengthen the process. But if there’s a way to make sure better schools open for our kids, I’m all for that.
“The moratorium certainly puts those of us trying to provide choices for parents on the defensive.”
Charter schools have no doubt diversified public education. The Charter School of Wilmington has been an academic juggernaut in its 12 years of existence, outperforming every traditional public high school in recent years. Others, like Maurice J. Moyer Academy in Wilmington, haven’t been as successful. Moyer ranks near the bottom of the state in test scores and dropout rates.
The argument for charters is that they can be creative and innovative while providing a focused curriculum, so they have a place. “Look, charter schools are here to stay,” Woodruff says. “The whole idea of empowering families with choice is here to stay. And I don’t think it’s a bad thing.”
With a new administration coming this month, aspiring charter leaders may soon see the cloud lift on the moratorium and, quite possibly, a new future for charters. —Matt Amis
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