Poverty Matters! Smarter Balanced Impact: The Sussex Academy Effect

Sussex Academy

Sussex Academy, the only Delaware charter school in Sussex County, was one of the best Smarter Balanced scoring schools in the entire county.  This is not an accident, nor is it an indication they are the “best” school in the county.  Like the Charter School of Wilmington, Sussex Academy was named in the ACLU lawsuit against the State of Delaware last December for discrimination against minority and special needs students.  Or what the blogosphere collectively calls “cherry-picking”.  The school is smack dab in the middle of Sussex County.


On the Delaware Department of Education school profiles part of their website, it shows the school’s demographics.  Sussex County has a very large population of Hispanics.  Western Sussex County is considered one of the poorest sections of the state and that trend is expected to increase over time.


In previous articles, this blog and Delaware Liberal have focused on New Castle County, Capital School District, and all the Delaware charters.  Our graphs have shown the effect low-income and poverty has on Smarter Balanced performance.  Unfortunately, this trend continues in Sussex County as seen below. Since Sussex Academy is primarily a middle school (although their high school is increasing, with 9th grade added two years ago, 10th grade last year, and 11th grade this year), I ran the graph with just the middle schools surrounding the school.  Sussex Academy appears to be siphoning away the “better” students from their surrounding districts.


To put this in perspective, Laurel Intermediate School is currently a Priority School in Delaware, which slipped under the radar of most bloggers until recently.  Meanwhile, Sussex Academy is praised by Governor Markell and the Delaware DOE as a great success.  All schools would be considered awesome if they were allowed to do what Sussex Academy does with their application process and mythical “lottery”.  Like Charter School of Wilmington and Newark Charter School to some extent, the veil has been lifted and these schools are not superior schools.  They have merely placed themselves on that stage by picking who they want, and more importantly, who they don’t want.

While their Hispanic population seems high, 9.6%, compared to many of the other schools, it is very low.  Sussex Academy is in Georgetown, the same as Georgetown Middle School.  Watch what happens…


In theory then, does the same hold true for the percentage of English Language Learners in Sussex County?  Not exactly.  Even though a few schools have less Hispanic students, Sussex Academy has the lowest percentage of English Language Learners.


How does Sussex Academy compare to the other schools with special education?  I’m sure you know the answer already, but there is a very wide margin between the school and the others.


In fact, they are in the low single-digits compared to the schools surrounding them.  When I see this, it always reminds me of the scene in Forrest Gump, when young Forrest tries to find a seat on the bus and the one kids says to him “Can’t sit here.”  This is what Sussex Academy does with their blatant discrimination against low-income students, Hispanics, and students with disabilities.  But I’m sure they will be recognized as a “reward” or “recognition” school for their exemplary performance…

10 thoughts on “Poverty Matters! Smarter Balanced Impact: The Sussex Academy Effect

    1. Says someone named John Doe… Delaware charters, especially Sussex Academy and Charter School of Wilmington, have been doing this for years. And journalists have written about this, so I would suggest a Google search in your future. Let me guess, looking at these graphics, this doesn’t disturb you?


  1. While I strongly agree that poverty level matters, I don’t for a minute agree with the accusation that Sussex Academy cherry- picks their students. The lottery is very real, and the public is invited to watch it. I have seen doctor’s kids with straight A averages that did not get in, but my kid who was receiving free lunch got in. This accusation has been reported several times, but not once has the reporter looked at the demographics of the applicants. There are simply not a lot of minority students, special ed students, or poverty level students who apply. I’m sure if they looked at percentage of those students who apply vs percentage that got in, that it would be equal in percentage to the “gifted white rich kids” who applied vs got in percentage.


    1. Kristin, Sussex Academy had an opportunity to provide that information. A couple years ago, there was an Office of Civil Rights complaint filed against a charter in Wilmington. As a result, all of the charters were required to provide their application demographics for the two years prior to that. The Delaware Charter School Network coordinated this effort with the Delaware charter schools. I saw in board minutes where this was asked of them, and some boards were willing to comply. The Del. Charter School Network went back to the OCR and told them none of them had it because they didn’t know they were “required” to keep that information. That speaks volumes. I’ve heard of many children who applied to Sussex Academy and didn’t get in. If any school has a “lottery”, the statistics would speak for themselves, but schools like this do something whereby certain applicants aren’t considered in the lottery. It may be public, but they have already screened out who goes in the lottery. While they may let in a handful of low-income or minorities, it doesn’t even come close to nearing the level of those students who SHOULD be there. If a school has a reputation of being “too tough”, then they have established that themselves, which is in essence de facto segregation. If Sussex Academy wants to provide demographics for ALL their applicants for the 2014-2015 school year, then I will certainly back up whatever it says. But until then, a picture paints a thousand words.


    2. There are simply not a lot of minority students, special ed students, or poverty level students who apply.

      This was the argument business used against affirmative action rules. It was bogus then and it is bogus now.

      Enclave schools have 1001 devious ways to acquire a richer and whiter enrollment. For whatever reason, these are publicly funded schools but they mysteriously end up serving mostly the most-advantaged. Nobody thinks it is as simple as a rigged lottery.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My daughter just started 6th grade at Sussex Academy but already I’m tired of hearing this & people bashing this school. She loves it & the environment. She’s biracial & was not treated very nicely by a lot of the students at her previous public elementary school. I am a single parent and with the way the economy is I would say that I’m considered lower middle class. So I’m still not buying the rich white kids argument. Yes, she is a good student but I expect it to stay that way as Sussex Academy has a good reputation for maintaining high academic standards & professionalism.


    1. I never said they are all “rich” white kids. But lower middle class and low-income are two totally different things. Their numbers speak for themselves, especially when the school closest to them in their feeder pattern is 46% Hispanic.


    2. “Rich” is relative in public school enrollment. The truly rich are sitting in private schools and laughing at all of this. Delaware’s premier selective enrollment schools are just a way to divide the rest of us and for the middle class to wall themselves off from poverty.


  3. – so, my child went to a private school, then a public school for Middle School and now Sussex Academy for high school – want to know why?

    We failed getting in in middle school – white/bi-racial (looks white – so its not looks) family, solidly middle class with an “A” student – if they were cherry picking – this kid was a cherry they didn’t pick

    Why put the child there??? well, let me tell you – Board members on Public School Boards like Sandra Minard who voted with the board and banned a book about a LGBT child. Comments about “all Muslims being terrorists” by a public school teacher in 4th grade, Christian prayer in the school and Board members fighting to keep it

    If I wanted my child in a religious school I would put them in one of my choosing – but I want my child to have a fear-free education – Free from from fear over religion, sexual orientation and sexual preference, race etc –
    and the ONLY place to find that in Sussex is at a Charter School.

    When the Public School system cleans up their anti-Civil Rights stance maybe I would consider them – but seeing as many on the school Boards here are:

    1 – homophobic
    2 – racist
    3 – religious extremist
    4 – discriminatory

    I’ll stick with the Charter School, thank you. I too am sick of the bitching – I have sat in that room with 100 other parents and I have watched the Lottery and to say that the folders of apps for non-desireables are not put into the Lottery is BUNK

    Unless you, like I, have sat there and watched that Lottery you are full of crap. Any parent can sit there and at the end of the Lottery ask to see their child’s folder and it is always there – they draw numbers until every last folder has a place in line – it is public, it is open and it is honest – and I say that as a parent whose child did NOT get in the first time and the second time around.

    as opposed to Sussex Tech where it is done in secret with a computer assigning a number – really???? then why does the kid write an essay? does the computer read that

    Tech needs to clean up their act – and stop wasting tax-payers money and the public schools in Sussex need Boards that don’t function like the Taliban

    until then, the sane moderates here of both ilks just want our kids educated in a sane and secular environment as those of you that DON’T have skin in the game need to keep your opinions where they belong – North of St George’s as Sussex Academy is the ONLY option we have down here.



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