Christina Moves Ahead With 6-12 “Rigor Academy” At Christiana High School

School Choice


On Wednesday evening, the Christina Board of Directors voted 5-1 to move forward on a controversial choice program at Christiana High School.  The new honors program, which will begin with 6th graders at Christiana High School, will pull the smarter students from existing Christina middle schools.  Eventually, this honors program with rigorous standards will have students from 6th-12th grade in it.  This will only continue the choice game in Delaware school districts.  Christina was one of the last remaining hold-outs on a program like this, but as a recent commenter wrote, they had no choice but to play the choice game.

Board President Elizabeth Campbell Paige was the only no voter for the program.  Board member John Young was not present for the meeting, but I have no doubt he would have voted no.

Earlier that day, I gave public comment at a meeting for the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities committee addressing the increasing divide between the “have” and the “have-not” students in Delaware.  I warned the committee that very soon the divide will be inseparable.  I feel the state is heading in the wrong direction in offering all these different “opportunities” for students.  We all know the most disadvantaged students: the poor, those with disabilities, those who are English Language Learners… they don’t get the same opportunities their regular peers do.

In an inter-district choice program, a student can take a bus to school, but they have to be picked up at the closest bus stop in their feeder pattern to where the choice school is.  This is true across the state.  That makes it very difficult for students whose parents may not have transportation or the means to get their child to that bus-stop.

Choice has become a major joke in this state.  We still have charter schools that are either mostly all white or in Wilmington, many charters that are mostly African-American.  I find it ironic that the advocates in Wilmington for the WEIC redistricting plan think that will solve all the problems.  The plan doesn’t even address the segregation in Delaware, much less Wilmington.  All it will do is dump students from one district with a ton of challenges to another district with the same challenges in many of their schools.  Both districts are steadily losing students to charter schools.

What Delaware needs is a weighted choice system.  With a weighted admission system.  Where every single student can get a chance.  If there is a lottery at a school like Newark Charter School or Charter School of Wilmington, there needs to be a weighted lottery.  This also goes for First State Montessori Academy.  They need to get rid of their specific interest preference.  They need to put their five mile radius preference first.  For a school that is located in the heart of downtown Wilmington, their demographics don’t show it.  Charter schools should represent the areas where they are.  If the General Assembly won’t put something like this through, I have no doubt the courts will one day.  Unless it is for good cause, I don’t think any student should go to a charter school outside of their school district.  There should be an immediate ban on this practice.

No more of these “rigor academies” that purposely leave out students who don’t have a chance.  It is stacking the deck a certain way.  This includes these “honors” programs and even the World Language Immersion programs.  The districts are killing themselves and they don’t even know it yet.  The districts think these programs are these great things, but they aren’t.  It might be for the few who would most likely have the same advantages either way, but not for the students who need more supports and just aren’t getting it.  These are 21st Century discrimination games.  No matter how many ways you cut this deck, students who need the most will continue to be shoved under the table and can’t make the final cut.  What a success story Delaware…

41 thoughts on “Christina Moves Ahead With 6-12 “Rigor Academy” At Christiana High School

  1. 4 Equity – mine or Young’s? Having been in Red Clay for a few years, their diversified middle through twelve schools have strengthened their district leading them to finally begin investing in their traditional middle and high schools. Dickenson went IB a few years back and took on a 6th – 8th magnet this year that RCCSD is trying to get IB approved. Can’t wait to see which direction McKean will head.


      1. Yes, “finally invest.” It’s called time. And CSD needs time to reposition itself for growth especially after bombing two referendums. Personally, I think CSD has had way too much time to rebound from Joe Wise and Marcia Lyles and the reputational damage they heaped on the district. Red Clay melted down similarly at about the same time and has come bounding back – to the extent that they have a much stronger reputation for trustworthiness than CSD. They’ve made referendum promises and kept them. They’ve chartered and unchartered schools. They created magnet schools that are attractive to parents and students. They are doing their job. But, half of CSD wants to dismantle an honors magnet before it even gets a paintjob? Yes, Red Clay has its own challenges, including its sitting court case over its last referendum. But, it actually has a portfolio of successes to show for itself. What does CSD have?
        But, it’s my district and I am going to support it and hope this is a first step to reimagining all secondary schools.


  2. Hey, every plan comes together in stages. You don’t tear down a district and build it back up all in one year. Look at the number of charters that close in either 4 or 8 years? To get from where some districts are to where they should be takes time. Realize a little success and then build out, build down, and build up.

    Would CSD be any better or provide any better an education if it did nothing?


  3. The election has determined PC to be an outdated concept. Special needs can apply to fast track learners.
    The current model resembles a one room school house. Since everyone is “college prep”, the level has to be restricted by the slowest. This does them no favor. Students want to chose and thus strategy. The Vo-Tech gives everyone a solid education and a chance!


    1. However, the legal definition of ‘special needs’ does not apply to fast track learners. Fast track learners need no separate location in order to be successful. How can this be right, when tracking is not acceptable?


  4. so, does that mean equity that CSD should continue in its one-size fits all trajectory? At last look, that wasn’t stemming the lost to choice which if I understand the situation correctly, is undermining the foundation of the district?


    1. absolutely not. CSD must address the real problems, not create new ones.
      The point is that while we resist tracking, we welcome complete separation. How does that make sense- socially, academically, and economically?
      they might as well fess up and say “okay folks, in some schools the rules must be followed, in all the rest, not so much.”


    1. I’m not saying NO minorities will benefit, but history in Delaware strongly indicates this will be an under-represented subgroup. Along with students with disabilities and English Language learners. Looks like the crab bucket mentality has come to Christina…


      1. Charter school of Wilmington has an admissions test. Look at their demographics.

        Enrollment by Race/Ethnicity

        2014-15 2015-16
        African American 6.0% 6.8%
        American Indian 0.4% 0.4%
        Asian 26.4% 28.7%
        Hawaiian 0.2% 0.2%
        Hispanic/Latino 3.3% 3.5%
        White 63.7% 60.3%
        Multi-Racial 0.1%



      2. Crab Bucket, really? You’re really telling me that there are no gifted ELL or disabled children?

        Ok, game time. Let’s play crab bucket. Let’s just say there are no gifted ELL or disabled children in CSD. Let’s pretend there is a minority/majority mix (which is true, more minorities attend CSD than non-minorities, or if you want to get nitty gritty Donald-Trumpy, whites.) If these gifted children are culled from the ranks of their non-gifted peers, does that allow teachers to better focus on the subset of students who do not qualify for honors? Or do they simply stop teaching b/c they no longer have gifted kids and their parents to pressure them to teach? That’s crab bucket. Is this the honors detractors vision for CSD?

        I can’t wrap my head around that insanity!


          1. If I wanted private school, I would have my children in private school. They’d be legacies at St. Mark’s. I have chosen both traditional and charter options for my children bc I want them to receive a PUBLIC education. PUBLIC education is the greatest entitlement program in the nation. I may not be entitled to all the other more well known entitlements like SNAP, TANF, Social Security, etc. However, this entitlement program, I want. And I happen to believe that we need to diversify offerings by maximizing our funding to benefit each and EVERY child. One size does not fit all.


        1. I think the issue is the difference between the “me” and the “we”. Students in their own feeder school’s honors program will be no less stretched or challenged than if they were at Christiana Academy. There are still parents who want their children removed from the general population.


          1. Ms. McCann, do you think a child who sees a Gifted and Talented teacher for 30 to 40 minutes a day will be stretched and challenged at the same rate as a child spends his/her day immersed in G&T?


          2. Why are we ONLY focusing on gifted and talented? This argument to only help them has not helped Delaware public education. Gifted and talented students used to always be integrated with their peers and they did just fine. They are todays millionaires and success stories. Unless they went to private schools. It wasn’t until the early 1990s that choice became a thing. And the long-term results, especially in Delaware, show it hasn’t worked for the benefit of ALL students. That is what I care about. I watch kids like my own get shuffled around because schools don’t know how to accommodate students with special needs because they have their heads up their ass trying to make these great programs. They cast kids like mine off to the side and justify it. It is unacceptable.


          3. It doesn’t take a talented and gifted teacher to teach an honors course. In fact, it doesn’t take much to acquire that certification. You really think every teacher there will be a T & G teacher?
            Honors courses demand teachers with demonstrated skills in promoting critical thinking, higher level questioning, higher level learning activities and standards. They are in every CSD building.
            Your arguments are weak, betraying your biases and lack of knowledge of school culture, climate, and staffing.


          4. The charter lobby scored a propaganda coup when they claimed separate schools were required for the “talented and gifted.” I know students from CSW and NCS. They’re not gifted; they are just regular smart kids like the kind I went to school with in the 70s in Delaware. That’s how most kids are supposed to turn out when they go to proper schools.


    1. Mike, thank you for making sense. I want to point out that bringing special groups of kids under one roof allows resources to be optimized. Look at Cab and Conrad. They are optimized. I really believe CSD can do more with honors-ready kids collectively than they can in small cohorts. Is it effective to have the correctly qualified teachers drive across the district several times a week or day to meet with these students? Under the state’s disgusting funding formula, not every school generates enough units to have their own dedicated honors teacher.


      1. “Look at Cab and Conrad. They are optimized.”

        Let’s start with Cab. How cool is it to have a “performing arts high school?” Everybody loves a show, right?

        But drama departments in all the other high schools have been gutted. I remember our family would attend shows at Dickinson, McKean, Mt. Pleasant, etc because relatives were in the cast. And they were good shows, with well-respected drama teachers. Maybe others can remember their names. Same thing has happened to sciences with Conrad.

        When we optimize, we have to remember to look over our shoulder and see what we are de-optimizing. “Concentrate, segregate, and optimize” is not a path forward.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Yes, Mike, they should. And every school should also have top-notch special education, class sizes less than 23 kids, equal amounts of minorities and low-income students based on the demographics of their feeder patterns, and the ability of EVERY student to get a shot. Sadly, that seems to have gone out the window with the God-almighty Choice.


  5. I agree with Mike O & Kevin O. Every school should have a rigorous honors program. Every. That these students be segregated into one building, and thus a rigorous honors program limited to one building is not the answer. I don’t care what Red Clay has done.


  6. Sad. Really sad. Y’all want to kill a program before it ever gets off the ground. Your definition of equity appears to be more of the same for all. If one school can’t have it, none of them can. Anyone ever tell you that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity? Out of curiosity, why don’t any of you have issues w the fact that only one hs – Newark High – has the Cambridge program? Y’all planning to shut that down too?
    Kevin, low blow. I’ved used choice for both my children and chosen to bring my son back to his csd feeder bc it was a better fit. And it is nothing like a private school and I was a private school brat thru 12th grade. You see, choice goes both ways.


    1. You know what… I’m done. I can’t keep arguing with pro-choice parents. This is the same argument I had with people on Kilroy’s two and a half years ago. Those who are pr0-choice don’t seem to be able to recognize the damage it does to Delaware, so I guess there is nothing I can do. I’ve seen and written far too much to suggest otherwise. I’m tired of trying to keep Delaware from sinking in the dark pit but it is a fight I have grown weary of and at great cost. Done.


  7. Kevin, you can’t quit. You’re bummed b/c not everyone agrees with everything you believe. You don’t believe in choice. That’s okay. But, I live in CSD, have a son in CSD, pay CSD taxes, and am watching CSD make good on its referendum promises for the first time in a decade (full-day kindergarten being the exception and that took two referendums to complete b/c the district failed to scale the money to make it universal after the 1st referendum.) I see hope for CSD, hope that the district will be competitive with those charters that draw their students away. I see this choice option as a positive one. A choice that brings students home and keeps students here. That’s all.


    1. Kevin, MAE is just getting her racist on. She’s a sellout. Public schools are not designed to be about competition, that’s why federal COMPETITIVE grants fail, unfailingly fail at that. Now MAE, the hypocrite that she is, want to pretend this is a good thing because she’s nursing a grudge. Sad, sad, sad.

      CSD ought not be in the business of size and retention, only about delivering the best. Right now, we face capacity issues. UNDER capacity. Our resources, cut smaller each year in Delaware’s funding quagmire that functions like the fucking Hunger Games is being spread over the same 26 physical plants, each with baseline costs of operation.

      CSD needs to strongly consider closing some schools and redrawing feeders to concentrate both students and the $$ that “follows” them. Then the resouces can provide the schools we want instead of special academies secreted away from the “other” middle schools…born in darkness and backroom deals with petitions predicated on lies and intimidation tactics.


      1. “CSD needs to strongly consider closing some schools and redrawing feeders to concentrate both students and the $$ that “follows” them. ”

        TPS mega-schools – that idea has some merit.


      2. Mr. Young, Am I racist or a sell-out? Which one is it? And would you please name the grudge I’m nursing? Because the last time I checked I was parent with a kid in his district feeder school in fifth grade and evaluating his 6th grade options within the district, like all fifth parents. It was through that research that I discovered CSD was even contemplating an honors academy for 6 through 8. Yes, my son is gifted, in ELA. He’s RTI in Math and has a 504 that was identified in Christina by his feeder school special education department. And it’s highly likely that he won’t gain entrance to the honors program b/c he’s not universally gifted and falls within special education. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t have hope, not just for my son, but for all of our kids.

        My only fault, I got excited that CSD might be making good on its referendum promises. And that an honors program for middle school kids is a great way to bring back parents who’ve left the district or stem the tide of those who want to. And if you really want to keep those buildings open, you have to diversify and bring these kids home.

        Yes, you’re right, you have a capacity problem. We have a capacity problem. We are spending thousands of dollars on keeping the lights on in buildings that are under-utilized. A program that can help breathe life into a dying campus, that’s a potential positive. Otherwise, we agree, shut them down. Shutter the schools that don’t generate enough plant funding to keep them open. I can see it now – Christiana High boarded up and chained off like Executive. Wonder how that will affect the value of your home and community?

        I don’t know anything about your darkness and backroom deals. I didn’t even see the petition. I learned about the academy from Kevin on this blog. Because CSD is such a stellar communicator.

        Why don’t you make good on your reputation and bring a motion before our board to close some of our schools? If you believe it so passionately, if you believe we’ve turned education into the hunger games, make the motion.

        If you’re not willing to, if you don’t have the courage, leave this mom alone.


  8. OK – I have to weigh in as a graduate of a non-choice Delaware Public School System. When choice was first brought into DE, it was because the Tech schools were just forming out of the Vo-tech that had existed. It was a way to give them students and a chance to thrive – which they did. Only now they excel and they get as much money as they want without the need to go to referendum (Yes Kev I know – I still say its all about the funding). It was also an opportunity for parents of kids in a district like Dover to choice their kids into CR – which at the time was more desirable. When I was in school, I remember the G&T kids in elementary. My brother and I were both tested but fell on the cusp of not G&T enough. The kids that tested high enough missed parts of the day and attended events but it wasn’t something they took advantage of or bragged about when they were in class with the rest of us. In fact, you would have never known which kids were in the program. In middle school it grew a little more so that they were able to take a couple higher level classes and then in HS they had the Honors classes for all of the core subjects. So my point is it worked well back then why do they need to be separate now? I think all schools should have a strong G&T program but wouldn’t you be concerned that you are essentially creating an elitist mentality with these kids? And yes, you will bankrupt the schools they vacate of the best teachers and resources. It is the opposite of what we experience in Special Ed with our kids who are kept out of the population and that is what was done when I was in school as well – separate and NOT equal. I vote to remove choice, go to a county system and equalize the funding. It’s not rocket science – why are we making it out to be?

    Liked by 2 people

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