The Delaware Department of Education introduced a new set of school designations Thursday allowing some low-performing schools to receive extra support and/or funding.
As a part of these new designations, the state is eliminating the previous rating system that labeled schools as “superior,” “commendable,” “academic watch” and “under improvement.” The new designations are “Recognition” for the schools attaining and sustaining student academic gains, “Reward” for the best performing and best progressing Title I schools, and “Focus” for schools that are the lowest-performing of the state’s Title I schools. Title I schools are those with high percentage or numbers of low-income students and receive special funding.
The new school designation system is not a part of Delaware’s Race to the Top reforms, said Alison Kepner, spokeswoman for the Delaware Department of Education, but the changes will work toward “better preparing our students for college and career.”
The designations are meant to give schools flexibility in requirements under a waiver of certain funding requirements of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as approved by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, according to a DDOE release.
Focus schools were identified based on the largest achievement gaps, low performance of subgroups on Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS) testing and/or graduation rates, different criteria than that used to identify Partnership Zone (PZ) schools. Focus schools will, however, submit improvement plans to the state for approval and will come off the Focus list after a pattern of improvement is established, similar to what is required of PZ schools, Kepner said.
The following schools were designated as Focus schools:
Capital School District: Fairview Elementary School, Dover; Booker T. Washington Elementary School, Dover
Charter: Moyer Academy, Wilmington
Christina School District: Bayard Middle School, Wilmington; Kirk Middle School, Newark; Newark High School, Newark; Oberle Elementary School, Bear
Milford School District: Benjamin Banneker Elementary School, Milford
Red Clay Consolidated School District: Alexis I. du Pont Middle School, Wilmington; Austin D. Baltz Elementary School, Wilmington; Warner Elementary School, Wilmington
Seaford School District: Frederick Douglass Elementary School, Seaford; West Seaford Elementary School, Seaford
Districts (or charters) with Focus schools will set aside 5 to 20 percent of Title I funding for Focus school support, as now allowed by the waiver approved by the federal government. Kepner said reallocating the Title I funding will allow administrators at the building level to use money for programs that they believe will work for students, not only those required by the government.
The Focus schools may also apply for grants between $50,000 and $250,000. The state will use funding through Title I 1003(a) and State School Improvement Grants.
The Reward and Recognition incentives are new, replacing previous programs including the Academic Achievement Awards.
This year’s “highest performing school” is Indian River School District’s Long Neck Elementary School in Millsboro. Lake Forest District’s Lake Forest South Elementary School in Harrington is the designated “highest progressing school” based on 2011 DCAS scores. Both Reward schools received a $50,000 award.
The recognition schools, up to 15 schools with sustained student performance and improvement, will be announced in late fall, along with another set of Reward schools.
Reward and Recognition schools will also receive less intensive supervision from state officials. “This method also builds capacity on the local level and provides more local control and decision-making about how to best meet building-level needs,” according to the DDOE release.