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U.S. News & World Report just ranked Delaware’s top schools. But what do they miss?

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Before schools across Delaware can finish closing out another school year, new rankings from U.S. News & World Report just dropped.

These rankings for public and charter high schools across the country, cataloguing some 17,660 out of more than 24,000 reviewed public schools in all states and the District of Columbia, included schools in the First State. Such rankings draw wide coverage and national attention — which makes sense, as strong schools with high-achieving students line their rosters.

But, there’s also more to the story.

For example, these school served fewer students with high needs. Looking at just Delaware’s top 10, every school had a smaller percentage of lower-income children than the average across state enrollment, according to data updated at the start of the academic year.

Six of those high schools had shares of lower-income students at less than half of the state’s rate, which is just over 27%. And of the four not charter or magnet schools, the district’s average household income runs about 19% higher than Delaware’s overall, according to Census data.

The three top schools — Charter School of Wilmington, Newark Charter School and Cab Calloway School of the Arts — have 3.6%, 9.65% and 11.24% lower-income students respectively. Newark and Cab each increased from last year in this demographic, while Wilmington decreased. The school on the list with the highest proportion was No. 9, Caesar Rodney High, in Camden, with about 21% of students at economic disadvantage. 

As for students learning English as a second language, no school in the list serves half the average in state enrollment, which is about 12%. The highest is just under 5%, also within Caesar Rodney.

At six of these top schools, students with disabilities make up less than 10% of total enrollment, compared to just over 18% attending public schools statewide. The top school comes in barely over 1%, according to state data, while No. 10 in Brandywine High serves over 21%.

Now for the list…

Delaware had 42 public high schools inside U.S. News’ reviewed schools, published by late last month. A few schools didn’t make the rankings, neither of course did any of the state’s private institutions. The list touts familiar names, though Caesar Rodney and Brandywine were movers from last year, having been just outside the top-10 in 2023.

Some schools are simply not intended to serve every student or made more rigorous by design, as previously reported. Conrad Schools of Science and Cab Calloway School of the Arts, for example, are both magnet schools. Vo-tech schools also require application, with primary criteria often including attendance and grades.

Nationwide, high-ranking schools tend to be in wealthier communities, have better resources, hold stronger tax bases. Experts say many rankings like these fail to take into account the kind of resources available in such communities to help raise student achievement on state assessments and encourage students into advanced courses.

Moving for education: Want to live near your state’s top schools? Prepare to pay $300,000 more for your house.

Ranking Delaware’s top-10 public high schools:

  1. Charter School of Wilmington, Wilmington
  2. Newark Charter School, Newark
  3. Cab Calloway School of the Arts, Wilmington
  4. Conrad Schools of Science, Wilmington
  5. Sussex Academy, Georgetown
  6. Mot Charter School, Middletown
  7. Caesar Rodney High School, Camden
  8. Brandywine High School, Brandywine Hundred
  9. Appoquinimink High School, Middletown
  10. Concord High School, Brandywine Hundred

Who’s running in your district? Delaware’s school board election guide

According to U.S. News, the rankings take the following indicators into account: 

  • College readiness (30%)
  • College curriculum (10%)
  • State assessment proficiency (20%)
  • State assessment performance (20%)
  • Underserved student performance (10%)
  • Graduation rate (10%)

Got a story? Contact Kelly Powers at 231-622-2191 or kepowers@gannett.com. Follow her on X @kpowers01.

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