Despite Getting Ten Million Bucks From XQ, Delaware Design-Lab STILL Can’t Get Their Enrollment Up!

Delaware Design-Lab High School submitted a major modification application to the Delaware Department of Education Charter School Office to lower their enrollment again!  This time they want to lower their enrollment by 26%.

I admire their tenacity, but sometimes you just have to realize there are too many charter schools in Northern New Castle County!  I’m not saying they should give up but how long is this going to go on for?  By failing to capitalize on their million dollar prize from XQ, they allowed their enrollment to drop to unsustainable levels.  They just got a major modification approved two years ago to lower their enrollment and now they want to do it again.

They were supposed to be at 475 students this year.  That was lowered from 600 students in 2016.  Instead, they had 298.  There is a reason no new charter applications have come in for New Castle County in three years.  They couldn’t even get to their magic number of 380 students to be at 80% enrollment based on their September 30th count.  They should be on formal review.  They were before they even opened for low enrollment but they managed to squeak by.  The only reason they aren’t is because of their XQ Super School prize.  I’m sure they are planning to spend those funds wisely but if their aren’t enough students there, what’s the point?  Apparently ten million bucks can get you a great many things except for actual students.

The rumor mill in Philadelphia is hearing Design-Lab wants to expand to the City of Brotherly Love.  I wouldn’t call their original in The First State a resounding success if they can’t get the students.

In their application, the school has projected enrollment for the next four years.  Their numbers don’t make much sense.  As an example, they are looking to raise this year’s ninth graders (69) to 75 during their sophomore year.  But then that jumps to 85 their junior year (because so many students transfer out junior year- insert sarcasm here).  But then during their senior year, it dips back down to 75.  For freshmen next year, they are projecting 100 students for that year.  But that will drop down to 95 the next year.  But inexplicably, the next year’s freshmen are projected at 100 but their sophomore year they will drop down to 90.  I guess you have to make the numbers fit somehow.  This is a far cry from their original charter application which was approved with 600 students by year four.

To see the major modification application, please see below:

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One thought on “Despite Getting Ten Million Bucks From XQ, Delaware Design-Lab STILL Can’t Get Their Enrollment Up!

  1. Two years ago I did some substantial research on DDL as possible school for my child. It was like extracting blood from a rock. This is what I learned: Delaware Design Lab is part of consortium of Design-Thinking Schools. The model applies the processes and mechanisms of design to all subjects. Another name is STEM-D. But, it really boils down to a glorified project-based learning synthesis system. However, for some students, this is a great way to get an education. As far as expansion, there are already STEM-D schools in Philadelphia that are part of the informal consortium of Design Schools. Additionally, the leadership in place at and leading up to the opening of the school was culled from Philadelphia, although there are principals (not the PRINCIPAL) from other states.

    But, DDL was not schooled in the Delaware Way, as they came from out of state. First off, the leadership attempted to open in the City of Wilmington. During info sessions, these folks learned that Suburban parents don’t like to send their children into the City. This precipitated a location change to Faith City by Christiana Mall. DDL was looking to aggressively recruit from the “Newark School District.” I still laugh when I think about correcting key principals in their assumption that there was a “Newark School District.” We are not New Jersey. I kindly explained that the district they were referring to was Christina.

    There continued to be deficits, spec ed dissatisfaction and complaints coupled with a substantial behavior population in their first freshman and sophomore classes. DOE also held the $ tightly and didn’t release enough money to allow the school to open with all the promised technology that the model required, though I am told that both the $ and tech eventually showed up. So, some families walked away early feeling the bait’n’switch.

    All of these things resulted in enrollment issues. However, in their second year of operation, DDL was still feeling positive as they acquired Odyssey’s former mobiles for DDL’s own anticipated space shortage. Faith City is not a large school and would not be able to hold the original 600 anticipated students.

    As far as the decreasing enrollment as the classes progress upward, I am going to offer a my opinion, my hypothesis – DDL is the perfect storm. Each year, they attempt to push behavior problems out the door, at the same time, they have to account for drop-outs and transfers (as some students get picked-up by “better” or more convenient schools.) As the waiver request suggests, there are no students in the upper grades beating on the door to get in – they want out.

    To DDL’s credit, I met students who were very loyal to the school. Sadly, I also know several sped. families that felt the need to leave. What struck me was the refusal of THE PRINCIPAL to even talk to me prior to signing a commitment letter to his school and the recruiter’s refusal to allow me to talk with the Education Diagnostician prior to the same signed letter. Those behaviors made me suspect enough to choose differently. And there was one other observation that has stayed with me – We toured the school during three different visits over two years. Not once did we ever run into an administrator other than the recruiter. The leadership of the school was simply invisible.

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