The Public High School Special: A Real Education
With millions in federal funds given to Delaware based on its potential to improve public schools, there’s a lot on the line. Is this another case of the government throwing money at a problem? Here’s a look at the schools’ performance now, and a survey of how they intend to reform education. Plus, find out how your school rates in our High School Ranking chart.
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Suffice it to say that the pressure is on, especially since Delaware and Tennessee were the first two states selected to participate in the Race to the Top (R2T) program, a federal $4.35 billion fund for education innovation and reform. Paid out over four years, half of Delaware’s $119 million allotment goes to the Delaware Department of Education and half goes to school districts and charter schools.
Schools do not receive equal shares. The allocation is based partly on need. Consider districts with a high population of students at risk or below the poverty line. It’s also based on district proposals that detail where they would allocate R2T funds.
Clearly, there is a lot for parents to consider when judging their child’s school or opting to participate in the school choice program. School choice allows parents to select a school outside the community’s feeder pattern. Each district has criteria for accepting or rejecting applicants—or even deciding if a school is open to choice. For the first year, Concord is closed because it is at capacity.
Though helpful, statistics alone do not offer an apples-to-apples comparison. The Charter School of Wilmington and Cab Calloway School of the Arts consistently rank high in test scores. However, these schools serve like-minded students who have applied to the school, just as students apply to private schools. There is no feeder pattern.
Schools also offer programs and have characteristics that statistics may not reflect. “It all starts with the climate of the school,” says Bruce Curry, principal of Polytech High School. “Students need to be proud that they’re doing well and that it is cool to do well.”
Here are some details about each district’s efforts to distinguish and enhance its high schools, including, when available, some R2T initiatives.
Appoquinimink School District
Appoquinimink High and Middletown High both boast student-run enterprises—a café, store and bank—to give students real-world experience in commerce. The district as a whole has an artist-in-residence program. Dedicated to college readiness, the schools feature more than 20 career “pathways,” including math and science technology, environmental science and graphic design. James Comegys, principal of Middletown High, hopes R2T funds will further district efforts to “create partnerships in the world of work.” Since both schools emphasize a globally focused curriculum, the word “world” is taken seriously. Says Comegys, “We don’t want to be just a good school for Delaware. We want to be a good school for the nation and for the world.”
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