Charter schools expand in Delaware

(File/NewsWorks)

(File/NewsWorks)

Four new charter schools are coming to Delaware, including one with roots in Philadelphia. 

According to the Delaware Charter Schools Network, enrollment in Delaware’s charter schools has grown by over 76 percent since the 2004-05 school year. In fact, Department of Education Secretary Mark Murphy said there’s more than 10,000 Delaware students currently enrolled in charter schools statewide and that the numbers continues to grow.

“What’s incredibly exciting is that some of our highest-performing schools in Delaware are charter schools and some of our fastest-gaining schools in Delaware are charter schools,” Murphy said.

Three years ago, a struggling East Side Charter School, was on the Dept. of Education’s radar. It now serves as an example of a successful charter school. “Our school has made great progress,” said Dr. Lamont Browne, principal of East Side Charter School. “Over the last two years our kids have grown 20 percentage points in math and 24 percentage points in reading.”

The Department of Education recently approved four new charter applicants to open schools starting in the fall of 2015. Murphy explained why charter schools are eyeing Delaware to set up shop. “I think what is appealing here is that this is a landscape in Delaware that is supportive,” Murphy said. “It is a landscape with a solid policy framework in Delaware, and over these last two decades we are the third fastest- improving state academically in the country. I think if I was aiming to open a school this would be the place to do it.” One of the four approved schools is Freire Charter School. Originally from Philadelphia, it’s now expanding to serve the Wilmington/New Castle County community. Freire’s connection to Delaware is Bill Porter, the school’s head of Academic Affairs, who was born and educated in the state. He’s been looking to open up a school in Delaware for years, despite news of failing charter schools and the recent shut down of Pencader Charter High School.

These developments aren’t enough to deter Porter, who says there’s still a cluster of children Freire Charter can serve. “Charter schools right now seem to be hitting a bumpy patch in terms of public image in Delaware,” Porter said. “What we want to rely on, though, is that we have a track record of success for 15 years.

“We’re the only applicant in Delaware history that actually has graduates,” he continued. “We have kids that have not only gone off to college but have gotten through college.” Over the years, views in the state vary on charter schools, but the Delaware Dept. of Education dismisses any negative connotations. “We look at national surveys of parents and some recent surveys here in Delaware, [and] what we see is parents having very positive reactions to school choices, whether those are district schools or charter schools,” Murphy said.  Meanwhile, the model for Delaware’s new charter schools is the success seen at East Side Charter School, where enrollment has increased and pre-kindergarten classes are now being offered. “We really have a whole-community approach to educating our kids,” Browne said. The new charter schools set to open in the state are as follows:

Freire Charter, the Philadelphia school that’s now reaching out to students here in Delaware. It’s a college-prep high school with a strict non-bullying policy.

Delaware STEM Academy, a high school that will focus on science, technology, engineering and math.

Great Oaks Charter School copies a New Jersey school by recruiting recent college graduatesto tutor 6th grade through 9th grade students.

Mapleton Charter School, located within the Whitehall housing development, is an elementary school not set to open until 2016. 

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.