Ask, and ye shall receive! Whenever I put up an article about Newark Charter School and what I view as their low sub-group population percentages compared to Christina School District, I am asked to do closer comparisons. That is absolutely fair and something I should have done a long time ago. So I plead guilty on that score. But sometimes wanting to know that information to shut me up isn’t always the best idea. Especially when the proof is in the pudding.
To that effect, not only am I going to present my findings but ALSO some potential solutions to this mess. But that would take folks like Greg Meece, Senator David Sokola, Newark Charter School parents, and the NCS Board of Directors to actually take a serious look at my ideas and potentially act on them. It could take changes in legislation as well for some of those ideas to take place. We already have a bill that passed the House and it is on the way to the Senate. There is time for them to look at it, throw in potential amendments, pass the Senate, and throw it back to the House for another vote based on the amendments.
NEWARK CHARTER SCHOOL DEMOGRAPHICS
Total Students: 2,388
African-American: 10.7%, Asian: 13.1%, Hispanic/Latino: 5.2%, White: 64.9%, ELL: 3.1%, Low-Income: 7.6%, Special Education: 6.8%
CHRISTINA SCHOOL DISTRICT DEMOGRAPHICS FOR THE ENTIRE DISTRICT
Total Students: 15,076
African-American: 39.4%, Asian: 5.1%, Hispanic/Latino: 21.9%, White: 28.7%, ELL: 10.5%, Low-Income: 39%, Special Education: 19.9%
CHRISTINA SCHOOL DISTRICT DEMOGRAPHICS FOR SCHOOLS WITHIN THE 5 MILE RADIUS
*note, some of these schools may have just part of their feeder pattern in the radius
Brader Elementary School
African-American: 36.4%, Asian: 4.7%, Hispanic/Latino: 15.6%, White: 36.2%, ELL: 5.8%, Low-Income: 31.8%, Special Education: 21.8%
Brookside Elementary School
African-American: 26.3%, Asian: 1.9%, Hispanic/Latino: 40.4%, White: 21.3%, ELL: 24.2%, Low-Income: 45.6%, Special Education: 20.5%
Christiana High School
African-American: 51.7%, Asian: 6.4%, Hispanic/Latino: 16.9%, White: 21.7%, ELL: 6.2%, Low-Income: 35.1%, Special Education: 26%
Downes Elementary School
African-American: 17.5%, Asian: 9.1%, Hispanic/Latino: 11.7%, White: 54.8%, ELL: 8.5%, Low-Income: 24.4%, Special Education: 12.2%
Gauger Cobbs Middle School
African-American: 37.7%, Asian: 2.1%, Hispanic/Latino: 26.4%, White: 30.2%, ELL: 6.2%, Low-Income: 38.5%, Special Education: 18.8%
Glasgow High School
African-American: 47.5%, Asian: 2.2%, Hispanic/Latino: 25.4%, White: 22.8%, ELL: 6.8%, Low-Income: 34.4%, Special Education: 24%
Keene Elementary School
African-American: 44.3 %, Asian: 3.7%, Hispanic/Latino: 11.8%, White: 31.2%, ELL: 7.8%, Low-Income: 31.8%, Special Education: 12.7%
Kirk Middle School
African-American: 34.6%, Asian: 7.2%, Hispanic/Latino: 20%, White: 33.5%, ELL: 5.6%, Low-Income: 32.3%, Special Education: 18.6%
Maclary Elementary. School
African-American: 20.8%, Asian: .6%, Hispanic/Latino: 28.9%, White: 44.8%, ELL: 19%, Low-Income: 38.5%, Special Education: 23.6%
Marshall Elementary School
African-American: 33.1%, Asian: 22.2%, Hispanic/Latino: 7.5%, White: 31.1%, ELL: 13.2%, Low-Income: 18.2%, Special Education: 9.3%
McVey Elementery School
African-American: 34.1%, Asian: 4.9%, Hispanic/Latino: 21.1%, White: 34.6%, ELL: 12.4%, Low-Income: 45.3%, Special Education: 15.6%
Newark High School
African-American: 36.7%, Asian: 5.6%, Hispanic/Latino: 21.5%, White: 33.5%, ELL: 6.3%, Low-Income: 30.5%, Special Education: 16.8%
Shue-Medill Elementary School
African-American: 32.1%, Asian: 4.2%, Hispanic/Latino: 25%, White: 34.2%, ELL: 5.5%, Low-Income: 34.7%, Special Education: 19.7%
Smith Elementary School
African-American: 19.8%, Asian: 7.7%, Hispanic/Latino: 19.6%, White: 45.3%, ELL: 15.2%, Low-Income: 33.4%, Special Education: 8.3%
West Park Place Elementary School
African-American: 18.9%, Asian: 16.6%, Hispanic/Latino: 10.7%, White: 46.5%, ELL: 13.2%, Low-Income: 25.4%, Special Education: 11.6%
CHRISTINA SCHOOL DISTRICT IN GREATER NEWARK AREA OUTSIDE OF 5 MILE RADIUS
Gallaher Elementary School
African-American: 23.4%, Asian: 9.5%, Hispanic/Latino: 23.2%, White: 33.5%, ELL: 11.7%, Low-Income: 35.3%, Special Education: 11.7%
Jones Elementary School
African-American: 47%, Asian: 1.7%, Hispanic/Latino: 23.4%, White: 19.5%, ELL: 10.1%, Low-Income: 40%, Special Education: 14.8%
Leasure Elementary School
African-American: 66.5%, Asian: 1.9%, Hispanic/Latino: 13.1%, White: 14.4%, ELL: 6.8%, Low-Income: 42.1%, Special Education: 14.5%
Oberle Elementary School
African-American: 26.6%, Asian: .3%, Hispanic/Latino: 53%, White: 16.1%, ELL: 37.9%, Low-Income: 52.6%, Special Education: 10.8%
Wilson Elementary School
African-American: 15.1%, Asian: 2.9%, Hispanic/Latino: 33.6%, White: 43%, ELL: 21.3%, Low-Income: 38.2%, Special Education: 17.6%
CHRISTINA SCHOOL DISTRICT’S WILMINGTON SCHOOLS
Bancroft Elementary School
African-American: 83.4%, Asian: .9%, Hispanic/Latino: 7.7%, White: 5.2%, English Language Learner: 2.4%, Low-Income: 71.8%, Special Education: 23.7%
Bayard Middle School
African-American: 67.7%, Asian: 0%, Hispanic/Latino: 27.3%, White: 2.8%, ELL: 8.7%, Low-Income: 67.6%, Special Education: 25.4%
Elbert-Palmer Elementary School
African-American: 77.9%, Hispanic/Latino: 14.8%, White: 2.5%, ELL: 6.3%, Low-Income: 76.5%, Special Education: 20.2%
Pulaski Elementary School
African-American: 41.7%, Asian: 0%, Hispanic/Latino: 51.7%, White: 4.7%, ELL: 30.5%, Low-Income: 67.6%, Special Education: 12.1%
Stubbs Elementary School
African-American: 84.9%, Asian: 0%, Hispanic/Latino: 10.5%, White: 1%, ELL: 4%, Low-Income: 74.1%, Special Education: 16.5%
In every single school within the 5 mile radius, the African-American and Hispanic-Latino populations is significantly higher than Newark Charter School.
In every single school within the 5 mile radius with the exception of West Park E.S., the Asian population is significantly lower.
In every single school within the 5 mile radius the White student percentage is lower than Newark Charter School. Only one school, Downes E.S. has a white population percentage over 50%. Newark Charter School has 64.9% white students.
In every single school within the 5 mile radius, the percentages of English Language Learners, Low-Income Students, and Special Education students is significantly higher than Newark Charter School.
In all schools not within the 5 mile radius but in the Greater Newark Area part of Christina School District, all percentages of African-Americans, Hispanic/Latino, English Language Learners, Low-Income, and Special Education students are significantly higher than Newark Charter School.
In all schools not within the 5 mile radius but in the Greater Newark Area part of Christina School District, all percentages of white students and Asians are significantly lower than Newark Charter School.
In all Christina Wilmington schools, the percentages of African-American, Hispanic/Latino, Low-Income, and Special Education students are significantly higher than Newark Charter School. The ELL students in Christina Wilmington schools have higher percentages than NCS with the exception of Bancroft E.S.
The overall percentage of African-American students for all Christina Wilmington schools is 69.6%, well over six times higher than that of Newark Charter School.
DOES THIS MAKE NEWARK CHARTER SCHOOL’S HEAD OF SCHOOL, BOARD, PARENTS, SENATOR SOKOLA, AND THOSE WHO VOTED YES ON HS1 FOR HOUSE BILL #85 A BUNCH OF RACISTS?
No, absolutely not. But it does not mean they gave careful thought to the perception of Newark Charter School’s demographics when this process first began. The fact that Newark Charter School was willing to give up their 5 mile radius for the landlocked portion of Christina School District is a watershed moment. But the fact they fought against including Wilmington students as part of the legislation is telling in a variety of ways. Does this make them card-carrying members of the Ku Klux Klan? No. It makes them human, capable of making a mistake. Even politicians can be easily swayed with saying yes or no to a bill. I saw that in full swing yesterday during the vote for the 5 mile radius removal bill. In Legislative Hall, personalities of politicians can be a huge reason why a bill does or doesn’t pass. I don’t think Greg Meece, the NCS board, or NCS parents are racists either. I think they like their school as it is and don’t want it to change. For Meece, and I’m fairly sure he would never admit this and it is my thought, I don’t think he wants the school to change because the perception of the school could change. He loves bragging about his school being #1. He likes the accolades from the Delaware DOE and members of the community. But I will get to why this is nothing more than smoke and mirrors and why Senator Sokola fights like hell for whatever NCS wants.
ARE THERE OTHER REASONS CHRISTINA WILMINGTON STUDENTS COULD HAVE BEEN DISCLUDED FROM THE BILL?
Yes. I can’t speak for the mindset of Senator Sokola. It all comes back to him in many ways. He was the one who told State Rep. Kim Williams the bill would not move forward in the Senate if it included the Christina Wilmington portion of students. Could he be thinking the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission recommendation of moving that portion of Christina into Red Clay could pass this legislative session? That is highly doubtful. There is no money in the budget for that to happen. Given the WEIC bills during last year’s legislative session effectively kicked the can down the road with no end in sight, I would not bet money on that scenario.
Could Newark Charter School be worried about transportation costs for Wilmington students? They could be, but let’s remember the portion of ANY student outside of their current 5 mile radius actually getting into the school via the lottery would be very low. The choice calendar for the 2017-2018 school year already closed so any changes if the law did pass with those students wouldn’t affect NCS until the 2018-2019 school year. And let’s not forget, charter schools do get to keep their transportation funds received if they spend lower than what their budget allotted. As an example, if a charter school puts in their budget an amount of $200,000 for transportation costs, but they only spend $175,000, they get to keep that $25,000. Newark Charter School has received over a million dollars the past three fiscal years as part of what is known as the “charter school transportation slush fund”.
Since the populations of low-income and special education students are much higher in Christina’s Wilmington schools, could NCS be worried about how that would affect future staffing and capacity to serve students with more challenges? That could be a huge factor in this. It isn’t just disabilities. It is also students coming from trauma, homelessness, or post-traumatic disorders stemming from violence in their community. Should that be a reason not to want those students? No. But schools, whether you want to see it that way or not, are essentially a business. Even though they are funded (for the most part) from taxpayer dollars, budgets have to be created each year and schools have to stick to those budgets. Often, business officers in schools have to predict things way ahead of time and anticipate possible funding changes throughout a school year. However, by law, schools are not allowed to deny special education based on funding issues.
IS NEWARK CHARTER SCHOOL ONE OF THE BEST SCHOOLS IN DELAWARE?
This is such a loaded question I don’t even know where to start! If you go by standardized test scores from the Smarter Balanced Assessment, absolutely. However, when a school has low populations of different subgroups, that skews those results to a great degree. The growth the Delaware Dept. of Education wants to see from different subgroups is huge. But for NCS, since they have lower percentages of subgroups, it makes their overall scores look better than other schools. If you already have high test scores based on a very high white and Asian population, there isn’t much room for growth.
With that being said, NCS parents rave about the culture and environment at NCS. They say the school doesn’t have many of the discipline issues the rest of Christina schools do. But this goes back to the student sub-group populations. If you have lower percentages of Students With Disabilities and low-income students, you automatically have less discipline issues. I have no doubt if every school in Christina and NCS had a parent satisfaction survey, NCS would score much higher than the rest.
Like any school, NCS has its challenges. The school expanded when their modification was approved for their high school. This created capacity issues. The school has the maximum number of allowed students based on their charter approved by the Delaware DOE. As a result, they have high classroom sizes like most of Christina. Students in elementary and middle school eat lunch in their classroom because there is no cafeteria. The high school has a cafetorium. They get less than 25 minutes for lunch and about 2o minutes for recess. They have bullying issues like any other school. Teachers, from what I’ve heard from many sources who wish to be anonymous, are overworked and don’t dare complain about it. This is true of many schools in Delaware. Students struggle at NCS, just like any other school. Not all students are A+ students. But they do have something many other Delaware schools don’t!
SOMETHING SEEMS OFF! IF YOU WALK AROUND AT NCS IT IS VERY MULTI-CULTURAL!
NCS parents and advocates say this all the time. There is a key ingredient missing from the Delaware Dept. of Education school profiles page. I noticed this when I hit the details tab for NCS’ student demographics. It breaks it down by grade. On this page it does not show Asians as a separate category. They are included in what is known as “other minorities”. If NCS Asian population is 13.1%, why does the school show 19.2% for this category? That would include Indian, Mid-Eastern and other minorities as well as Asian. In looking at this for other Christina schools, those numbers aren’t as high. Which brings up another thing that makes NCS different from all other Christina schools: their socio-economic level. With a low-income percentage of 7.6%, this means that percentage of their student population qualify for a free or reduced lunch. For Christina, that percentage is at 39%. That is a huge difference. That means 5,879 Christina students get free or reduced lunch compared to NCS’ 169 who qualify for that. With low-income often comes poverty as well, those who are so far below that standard many students don’t even eat on the weekends. These are students who come to school malnourished and aren’t healthy. Their clothes are dirty. Often, teachers in Christina will wash their clothes. Students are given food to eat over the weekend by the schools. The needs of students within Christina School District are much higher than that of Newark Charter School. That changes everything.
With higher socio-economic levels comes higher parent engagement. This has been proven time and time again in the history of American public education. Parents are more likely to band together when things aren’t right. They also have more input with school administration and the board. They are more involved in the educational process of their children. So it does create a better culture in the schools. But does that make it right? Should a Delaware public school be allowed to be so vastly different from the schools around them? There is a higher amount of wealth at Newark Charter School. Engage parents are more likely to contact their local legislators or rally for a cause. When NCS submitted their modification to build their high school, NCS parents came out of the woodwork to advocate for this expansion. Legislators listen to their constituents, but they can only listen to those who contact them. If greater numbers of NCS parents contact them about an issue than Christina parents, who are they going to listen to more? These are also constituents who are more likely to vote in an election.
HOW SHOULD OUR GENERAL ASSEMBLY AND NEWARK CHARTER SCHOOL FIX THIS DEMOGRAPHIC MESS?
I have always felt NCS should have a weighted lottery. As well as opening up their student population to the entire Christina School District. But to get their demographics in line with even the schools within their 5 mile radius would take a long time to complete. With a weighted lottery, the school would have to accept certain percentages of student sub-groups into the lottery. Say 60% African-American, 25% Hispanic, 10% White, and 5% Asian to get to a more even footing compared to the rest of Christina. Over time, once their numbers evened out, it should be more respective of the district they draw students from. While my formula is just an example, and should not be construed as the exact way to do this, I would highly recommend their board and our General Assembly consider something like this to fix an issue that won’t die any time soon.
For Delaware legislators in the Christina School District, I know many of you feel like you must do as Newark Charter School wants. However, that comes with a price. You are also legislators for the entire state. You can’t always pass laws based on how your district may feel. If it is only good for your district but it makes Delaware look bad or isn’t good for Delaware as a whole, you need to take a stand. And for Senator David Sokola, you are the leader of this pack. And I will call you out on it every single time I see it because you do have the ability to make a bill move forward or whither on the vine.
WHO IS RIGHT? THE SNEAKY-SNAKE BLOGGER AND HIS RAGTAG BAND OF ADVOCATES OR NCS CHEERLEADERS?
Time will tell. I have yet to hear any NCS parent announce to the world: “I want NCS to take the Wilmington students”. All I hear is their defense of the school as it is now. I’ve been called a “Demorat” and a “Liberal” by those who took offense to my article yesterday. I’ve been told I have no idea what I’m talking about and NCS is great. I’ve heard many say I’m just a disgruntled parent who is outraged my own kid never got into the lottery at NCS. Which is pretty funny considering I live in Dover. Others have said I am paid by Christina School District to write what I do. Which is very funny because I have no doubt there are quite a few in Christina who wish I would stop writing about them. I have not been paid a single penny or anything more than that for writing anything on this blog so to suggest I have some type of financial or political motivation is absurd. I’ve pissed off more politicians in this state than most so my aspirations for political office aren’t there. I don’t write what I do to make friends. I write based on what I believe is right and wrong. I respect NCS’ parents defense of their school, but I hear the same thing from so many of you whenever this comes up. How you are better and you are diverse. I hope this article has given you how the other side sees things.
This article is my attempt to give a much clearer picture of my issues with Newark Charter School. Trust me, I have issues with charter schools that have pre-admission testing or you have to have an interview. Same with some of our magnet schools. I’ve written about them as well. I have no doubt there will be legislation in the future that deals with those issues. NCS does not have those things and I salute them for that. Some feel charters should be abolished altogether. I don’t believe that. They serve a purpose. However, I also feel their funding should not come from local school districts but rather a line-item budget like our Delaware vocational school districts have. That is approved by the General Assembly. But I do believe if ANY public school receives taxpayer dollars, they should LOOK like the community they reside in. Which to me means the district they reside in. And if you are a charter school, that means looking like the entire district, not the area of the district with all the concentrated wealth. That is all I’m fighting for.