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Cape students deserve better elementary plan

Cape Gazette of Lewes, Delaware

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Cape Henlopen School District ranks near the top of Delaware schools when it comes to overall achievement on state tests. Yet nearly every year, scores at H.O. Brittingham Elementary School lag far behind other elementary schools.

With a new elementary expected to open in 2017, the district has an ideal chance to review attendance areas and address the most obvious reason for the huge gap in test scores: HOB has long had the highest number of low-income students, 57 percent this year, compared with only 23 percent low-income children at Shields.

Why is this a problem? In 2014, third-graders at HOB lagged 24 points behind third-graders statewide and 82 points behind students at Shields. In math, HOB third-graders lagged statewide scores by 29 points and Shields students by a stunning 90 points.

While these numbers don't tell the whole story, they clearly contradict school board President Andy Lewis' recent statement that students at all Cape schools will continue to receive exceptional educations at whatever school they attend. Simply put, that is not what is happening.

The problems don't end in elementary school. When children have little elementary success, it carries over to middle school and high school, where low-performing students are more likely than high achievers to lose confidence and drop out, missing out on the exceptional education Cape Henlbpen promises.

For years, Cape has insisted it has programs to address low test scores at HOB. For years, these programs have failed.

Cape administrators must offer a plan that allows any child within walking distance of a school to walk, while at the same time establishing school populations that have virtually equal percentages of low-income students, as a first step toward erasing the district's achievement gap.

The No. 1 priority of the redistricting plan should be to ensure every student gets a great start in every district elementary school. That will require a better plan than the district has so far offered, but it's a change that is long, long overdue.

Copyright 2016 Cape Gazette, Lewes, Delaware. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: May 31, 2016

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