Charter schools believe in students

April 3, 2014

Every child in Delaware deserves an opportunity for an excellent public education. In many ways Delaware’s public schools are on the rise. As Gov. Jack Markell noted last week, our fourth grade reading scores ranked in the top five states on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress. We applaud the work being done in all of our public schools, but we still have work to do. Based on information from the College Board, the state ranked last - 51st - in 2013 on SAT score standings compared to other states and the District of Columbia.

Our mission at the Delaware Charter Schools Network is to promote excellence through autonomy and choice in public education. Our charter schools work hard every day as an integral part of the public school system toward excellence for our children. In last week’s Cape Gazette article however, there were several misconceptions stated about charter schools and charter education, and I’d like to address them.

The article is about the efforts of the Seaford and Cape Henlopen school boards to change the student population profile at charter and vo-tech schools so they mirror the overall student population of Sussex County. Several board members expressed concerns about student demographics at Sussex Academy and Sussex Tech compared to the county as a whole. One board member asserted that charter schools and vo-techs “cherry pick” top students, which he said “causes our test scores to suffer.”

As the advocate for Delaware’s charter schools, I will speak to how charters operate. Vo-tech schools have similar, but sometimes different processes. Charter schools offer choices in education. They do not set out to cherry pick or steal students, adversely affect test scores, or divide schools and communities. Charter schools were created to provide options for families seeking an education that better suits their child’s individualized strengths and learning needs. Our focus is on quality education, not checking off boxes to comply with resolutions or student diversity quotas.

Because charter schools are popular, the law allows for certain admission processes. Depending on the charter school, each follows specific admission and lottery processes based on how they have been approved to operate.

Students in Sussex County have limited excellent educational choices. Therefore, there is high demand for admission to Sussex Academy, so the school uses a lottery. Applications received prior to the school choice deadline are placed in a blind lottery, a practice prescribed by law, both federal and state. It is a fair and equitable process as governed by law.

Charter schools do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion or disability. For charter schools, the focus is and always has been on the children and the mission of the school as agreed to when authorized. Charter schools are also forced to do more with less. In the 2010-11 school year, the Cape Henlopen School District received a revenue (federal, state and local funds) of roughly $17,000 per student. In comparison, Sussex Academy received about $9,000 per student - and they’re the best performing middle school in the state.

Lastly, regarding the comment made by the board member about our schools taking top students and how this negatively impacts test scores. Blaming less than excellent test scores on other schools is an excuse. Blaming others for falling short is never the solution. And saying that a school other than your own has the best students sends the wrong message to your own students.

The Delaware Charter Schools Network believes that every child can learn given the right environment, staff, and method. Believe every child is your best child, teach every child like they are your best child, and set expectations to match those beliefs. Children will not fail you. Believe in them, work with them and for them, and they will soar!

Kendall Massett
executive director
Delaware Charter Schools Network

  • A letter to the editor expresses a reader's opinion and, as such, is not reflective of the editorial opinions of this newspaper.

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