Cape must close the achievement gap

August 12, 2014

Cape Henlopen students scored well on state tests this year, outperform­ing their counterparts statewide in nearly every category. Among traditional school districts – not counting charter schools – Cape outscored nearly every other district.

While Cape students performed well, tests again revealed the nagging gap between stu­dents at Milton’s H.O. Brittingham Elementary School and the other elementaries. Britting­ham students persistently score lower – not only lower than other Cape schools but lower than the state average in most categories.

New programs were instituted at HOB last year to close the achievement gap, but they were clearly insufficient. In reading, third-­graders at HOB still lagged 24 points behind third-graders statewide and 82 points behind students at Lewes’ Richard A. Shields Elemen­tary. Fifth-graders lagged 16 points behind fifth-graders statewide and 68 points behind students at Shields. Meanwhile, in math, third­graders lagged statewide scores by 29 points and Shields students by a stunning 90 points.

HOB fifth-graders were only 8 points behind their peers statewide, but they scored 59 points lower than peers at Shields. The results are all the more striking because while Shields students received the highest scores, Re­hoboth and Milton elementaries scored simi­larly to Shields. The gap persists in middle school, where Beacon, which draws from Re­hoboth and Shields elementaries, significantly outscored students at Mariner, which draws from H.O.Brittingham and Milton elementa­ries.

Observers will say the reasons for the gap are obvious: school achievement correlates closely with household income. With the highest percentage of low-income students, many would expect H.O. Brittingham students to have lower scores. But this lower expecta­tion is exactly what has to change.

Cape Henlopen’s property tax base is among the highest in the state, and the district spends $14,429 per student, well above both state and county averages. Cape made a seri­ous effort to close the gap last year; it was not enough. Why not become a true leader in education by setting the goal of raising H.O. Brittingham’s scores to match Cape’s other outstanding schools?

  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Laura Ritter, news editor, and Dennis Forney, publisher, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; Nick Roth, sports editor; and Chris Rausch, associate publisher.