Reach Academy to remain open for now

A district court has ruled in favor of Reach Academy for Girls, keeping the charter school in Claymont open for at least another year.

“We’re very, very happy to have the opportunity to continue doing what it is we’ve been trying to do, and that is to create an environment, a single-gender environment, where each student can excel individually and also collectively,” Reach Academy board member Tina Betz said.

The ruling grants a preliminary injunction, requiring Delaware’s Dept. of Education to renew the K-8 school’s charter for one more year.

The all-girls school was supposed to close at the end of the school year after the DOE announced in November that it would not renew the school’s charter. Poor academic performance was cited as the reason behind the DOE’s decision. 

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Reach, in turn, filed a lawsuit against the state agency saying the decision violated the students’ Fourteenth Amendment rights, which guarantees due process and equal protection from discrimination. 

“Regardless of gender, we believe the quality of the education is most important and we continue to be concerned with the sustained poor performance at Reach Academy.” Secretary of Education Mark Murphy said.

Results from standardized tests measuring proficiency and progress show students did not meet or fell far below academic standards over three school years. 

“All schools have a responsibility to provide a high quality education,” Sec. Murphy said. “[Charter schools] are subject to a clear accountability process by the Department, which clearly includes the option of non-renewal of their charters if they fail to successfully educate their kids.”

“It is much more than standardized tests that tell the story of how the girls are doing,” Betz said, adding she wished the state would have visited the school more often before coming to its decision.

“Many of the girls that came to Reach were coming from schools that were underperforming schools, and they were underperforming in those schools,” said Betz who says students are learning about the importance of attendance and making education a priority.

“Once we get to do that basic turnaround with individual girls and also in the classroom with the entire group of girls, then we are very confident that standardized test scores will start to improve as they have,” Betz said. 

While the school has been open for four years, Betz says the current board has only been around for two pointing out that Reach Academy’s mission mirrors the DOE’s, which is excellence in education; the board just wants the chance to prove it.

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