New school classification system in Delaware

Delaware has a new school classification system and the Dept. of Education is designating buildings across the state in need of extra support and/or funding.

With the new system in place, Delaware has done away with the school rating and status system (i.e. superior, commendable, academic watch, under improvement), which forced schools classified as “under improvement” to follow federally prescribed cookie-cutter remedies.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan approved Delaware’s plan for school accountability and support in May, relaxing certain requirements under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act. According to DOE, the move affords the state more flexibility to help schools achieve academic goals on a local level.

“This is a better system… to look at what the district needs and to really also tailor the support to those needs so it’s not a mandate that because you are “under improvement” you have to do choice busing or you have to offer this tutoring program,” said Alison Kepner, spokeswoman for DOE.

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Now, with state supervision, Kepner says districts will design and implement plans that meet the specific needs of their schools and students, and have the freedom to direct funds where the need lies. 

The state has named 13 “Focus” schools, based on the largest achievement gaps, low performance of subgroups and or graduation rates:

Capital: Fairview Elementary School, Washington Elementary School
Charter: Moyer Academy
Christina: Bayard Middle, Kirk Middle, Newark High, and Oberle Elementary
Milford: Banneker Elementary School
Red Clay: A.I. DuPont Middle, Baltz Elementary, and Warner Elementary
Seaford: Frederick Douglas Elementary and West Seaford Elementary

DOE says each school was selected based on 2010-11 DCAS Performance. Newark High, for example, was chosen because of a significant achievement gap between low income and non-low income students. Now, Christina, the other districts and charters must come up with reform plans for state approval, much like schools in the state’s Partnership Zone. Like PZ, schools will not be able to shake the designation until they show consecutive years of strong performance.


Because of Delaware’s recently approved ESEA flexibility, DOE says the state will now recognize two schools excelling academically each year. Based on 2011 data, Kepner says Indian River School District’s Long Neck Elementary School in Millsboro and Lake Forest District’s Lake Forest South Elementary School in Harrington have been selected as Delaware’s 2011-2012 “Reward” schools – one for “highest performing school,” and one for “high progress school,” respectively. Both schools will receive financial awards.


State education leaders say up to 15 schools will be recognized for achieving and sustaining significant gains in student performance. Those awards will be announced in the fall, along with another round of “Reward” schools based on 2012’s assessment results. 

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