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…