Poverty Matters! Smarter Balanced Impact: The Sussex Academy Effect

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.

SussexAcademyMap

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.

SussexAcademyProfile

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.

SussexCountyPLISBAC

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…

SussexHispanic

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.

SussexELL

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.

SussexSpecEd

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…

Poverty Matters! The Smarter Balanced Impact: Capital School District

This series began with Delaware charter schools and the four Wilmington School Districts.  Now were going to the middle of Delaware, to the Capital School District in Kent County, home to our state capital, Dover.

CAPITAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
SBAC ELA & MATH RESULTS and LOW-INCOME PERCENTAGES

Capital-SBAC

The above graph shows some trends, but not as noteworthy as Red Clay and Christina School Districts.  Capital, like many other districts “south of the canal”, does not have more than one middle school or high school.  In fact, there “two” middle schools consist of William Henry which serves grades 5-6 and Central Middle, 7-8.  The true outlier in this graph is Dover High School and their very low Math Smarter Balanced results.

While this looks like no true trends exist, if we take out Dover High, Central Middle, and William Henry (where all three have all the Capital elementary schools converging into one building in all future grades), we are left with Capital’s elementary schools which only go up to 4th grade.  We can see an overall trend in the below graph similar to the Wilmington school districts and Delaware Charter Schools: low-income level is high, Smarter Balanced Scores are lower, and vice-versa.

CAPITAL SCHOOL DISTRICT ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS

LOW-INCOME & SBAC RESULTS

Capital-Elementary-SBAC

In the below graph, I threw in the true charter schools that primarily exist within the Capital School District, Campus Community School and Academy of Dover, just to see what would happen.  There isn’t too much change.

CAPITAL SCHOOL DISTRICT & LOCAL CHARTERS

LOW-INCOME & SBAC RESULTS

Capital-Charters-SBAC-PLI

In the below graph, I threw in the district’s special education and English Language Learner percentages for each school based on DOE School Profiles data on their website for the 2014-2015 year.  The grey special education area does show a slight downward trend in schools the higher the population gets for each school, with the exception of Booker T. Elementary School.  This school also houses the district’s talented and gifted program, so there numbers should be a bit higher given that.

CAPITAL SCHOOL DISTRICT

SBAC RESULTS, LOW-INCOME, SPECIAL EDUCATION & ELL

Capital-SBAC-ELL-SPECED

Sandwiched in the middle of the state, Capital is a unique district.  The more affluent areas exist within the Hartly area, which shows much higher scores than all the other schools in the district.  But I foresee Capital’s numbers drastically changing in the future as some schools are set up with the World Language Immersion program, and others are not.  Since special education students and “problem” students don’t usually enter into these types of programs, we could eventually see some Capital schools bottoming out on SBAC if it stays on the same course.  Hopefully Capital will self-correct their internal student population otherwise they could be looking at priority schools in 4-5 years time.  Of course, the grand hope is ALL of this high-stakes testing and accountability nonsense will be gone by then!

Like I said up above, the trends in Capital don’t exactly mirror the schools in Wilmington due to some of the unique nature of their district alignment with schools.  When my son attended an elementary school in Capital, he went to Booker T, even though we passed North and Fairview before we got there.  So there feeder patterns are a bit different as well.

One final graph I did want to point out, which doesn’t really have much to do with Smarter Balanced scores, but does show an interesting graphic is the correlation between low-income and special education within Capital.

CAPITAL SCHOOL DISTRICT

LOW-INCOME & SPECIAL EDUCATION

Capital-PLI-SpecialEd

The numbers on this fluctuate a bit, but there are some indications of a trend.  With that being said though, special education can be a very tricky beast and no school is the same.  We will have more of an idea how special education students fared on the Smarter Balanced in six days when the sub-group data is released by the wild bunch down at the DOE.