Cape must close the achievement gap
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?