Brandywine's Harlan Elementary School is one of 53 Delaware schools on support and improvement plans.

53 schools on improvement plans to be re-evaluated next year 

Jarek RutzEducation, Headlines

Brandywine's Harlan Elementary School is one of 53 Delaware schools on support and improvement plans.

Brandywine’s Harlan Elementary School is one of 53 Delaware schools on support and improvement plans.

The First State has 53 public schools on support and improvement plans due to consistent underachievement. 

They are divided into three categories, determined by factors such as whether the whole student body or only a student subgroup are underachieving and whether there’s a pattern of underperformance from year to year.

Schools on support and improvement plans receive extra funding for programs designed to improve student success, which is usually an extra few hundred thousand dollars. 

That cash flow ends when the designated improvement period ends. It’s usually three years, but the COVID-19 pandemic lengthened the term for some.

Evaluations will take place after the 2023-24 school year ends.

Here are how the schools are classified: 

Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI)

CSI schools either score in the lowest 5% of all Title I schools’ performance as measured by the statewide accountability system, or the school’s graduation rate is below 67%. 

The accountability system takes into consideration test scores, proficiency rates, graduation rates, student attendance and more.

Title I schools are those in which at least 40% of the student population lives below the poverty line. There are 147 Title I schools in Delaware, according to the Delaware Department of Education’s most recent data.

CSI schools are identified every three years. Delaware’s were identified in 2018 and 2022, since the pandemic caused some disruptions. 

There are 10 CSI schools in Delaware:

  • AI DuPont Middle School (Red Clay)
  • Bancroft Elementary School (Christina)
  • Bayard Middle School (Christina)
  • East Side Charter School
  • Edison Charter School
  • Harlan Elementary School (Brandywine)
  • McCullough Middle School (Colonial)
  • Newark High School (Christina)
  • Shortlidge Academy (Red Clay)
  • Stanton Middle School (Red Clay)

Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI-1)

TSI-1 schools have at least one subgroup of students underperforming for two consecutive years. 

There’s various subgroups, such as students with disabilities, English language learners or students experiencing homelessness.

TSI-1 schools are identified every three years. Any TSI-1 school that does not improve after three years is identified as needing comprehensive support and improvement, transitioning it to a CSI school. 

There are 40 TSI-1 schools in Delaware:

  • Carrie Elementary School (Colonial)
  • Castle Hills Elementary School (Colonial)
  • Central Middle School (Capital)
  • Charter School of New Castle
  • H.B. duPont Middle School (Red Clay)
  • Pierre S. duPont Middle School (Brandywine)
  • ​​East Dover Elementary School (Capital)
  • F. Niel Postlethwait Middle School (Caesar Rodney)
  • Fairview Elementary School (Capital)
  • Gauger-Cobbs Middle School (Christina)
  • Georgetown Middle School (Indian River)
  • George Read Middle School (Colonial)
  • Great Oaks Charter School
  • Gunning Bedford Middle School (Colonial)
  • Highlands Elementary School (Red Clay)
  • Jennie E. Smith Elementary School (Christina)
  • John Bassett Moore School (Smyrna)
  • Kuumba Academy Charter School
  • Lake Forest High School
  • Las Americas ASPIRA Academy
  • Laurel Middle School
  • May B. Leasure Elementary School (Christina)
  • Magnolia Middle School (Caesar Rodney)
  • Maple Lane Elementary School (Brandywine)
  • Mariner Middle School (Cape Henlopen)
  • Milford Central Academy
  • Millsboro Middle School (Indian River)
  • Nellie Hughes Stokes Elementary School (Caesar Rodney)
  • New Castle Elementary School (Colonial)
  • Selbyville Middle School (Indian River)
  • Shue-Medill Middle School (Christina)
  • Skyline Middle School (Red Clay)
  • Southern Elementary School (Colonial)
  • Springer Middle School (Brandywine)
  • Talley Middle School (Brandywine)
  • Towne Point Elementary School (Capital)
  • Warner Elementary School (Red Clay)
  • William Henry Middle School (Capital)
  • Woodbridge Middle School
  • W. T. Chipman  Middle School (Lake Forest)

Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI-2)

TSI-2 schools are identified if they have at least one subgroup of students underperforming. 

Delaware has three TSI-2 schools:

  • South Dover Elementary School (Capital)
  • Delmar Middle School 
  • Seaford Middle School

Criteria to exit

The support and improvement plans are a result of the Every Student Succeeds Act, passed in 2015. It replaced the No Child Left Behind Act.

Eric Niebrzydowski, director of Title programs and grant supports at the Department of Education, said the No Child Left Behind program had elements that were much more punitive than the current system. 

As time went on, he said, schools nationally realized that approach didn’t work well. 

The support and improvement plans are more focused on helping schools sustain positive student achievement, he said.

For CSI schools to exit their status, they must demonstrate improvement in student performance relative to grade-level standards and not show regression in academic performance since their original identification year.

For TSI schools to exit, they must demonstrate improvement in subgroup performance relative to grade­-level standards. 

TSI schools can present additional evidence of improved performance in the form of a portfolio including Multi­ Tiered System of Supports data, educator retention data, as well as Opportunity to Learn data such as access to high quality instructional materials, access to technology, and access to high-speed internet.

The schools are typically on three-year plans, Niebrzydowski said. To help negate the effects of the pandemic, schools were required to continue the program until after the 2023-2024 school year.

Creating the plan

A group from the Department of Education works directly with school and district leaders to create the support and improvement plans. 

This comes after a needs assessment is conducted, which helps determine where finances should be allocated. 

For example, the needs assessment could find that a school needs to hire reading or math specialists, reconfigure their transportation methods to make sure students are getting to school on time in a way that doesn’t burden parents, creating disciplinary plans and more, said ​​Tawanda Bond, senior director of teaching and learning at Red Clay Consolidated School District.

“Programs are good of course, but programs don’t move the needle, the people move the needle,” Bond said. “So one thing we implemented across our schools was instructional coaches.”

The coaches spend a lot of time analyzing data and working with individual teachers to see what’s working and what’s not, and how to tweak instruction as the plan progresses from year to year. 

“It’s essential for plants to be nimble and a living document in that you sort of construct the three year plan with goals and objectives throughout, but knowing that there may need to be mid-course corrections,” Niebrzydowski said.

The plans also look at aspects such as school climate, suspensions and chronic absenteeism, which is when a student misses 10% or more school days in a year. 

Niebrzydowski pointed out that part of the plan is making sure any programs put into place are sustainable, since the additional funding will run out once a school has exited. 

“Typically programs are not hard to sustain. It’s when they invest in people…people are hard to sustain,” he said. “And sometimes you need an influx of people and a school will bring in a math specialist or a reading tutor, whatever it is, but they also realize they’ve got this window of time.”

He said schools find ways to utilize local funds to keep the positions, or sometimes they’ve built up enough “infrastructure” that those specialist positions can be eliminated once the school reaches sustained student achievement.

“A school might say they’ve scaffolded in a way that we can take that support away, and the student achievement will continue on its own,” he said. 

Bond said Red Clay has built summer programming focused on STEM and reading. 

She said community partnerships have been key for Red Clay’s support and improvement plans. 

“We have community partnerships with places like Children and Families First, where it’s not just academic, it’s also socio-emotional help,” she said. 

Children and Families First is a Delaware organization that provides social services ranging from help finding child care to sexual education to trauma care and supports for the homeless.

“DOE has been a listening ear and have worked with us to service the needs of the students in the buildings and not just come in and tell us ‘these are best practices, research-based things that we know work and you need to do them’,” Bond said. “So it’s really been a true partnership.”

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