High schools have a tall order to fill today, says Joan Buttram, director of the Delaware Education Research and Development Center and School of Education assistant professor at the University of Delaware. We are educating many more kids than a generation ago, she says. They’re coming from more diverse backgrounds and a lot more intend to go on to higher education. The good news in Delaware, though, is that along with higher stakes, standards and expectations, there is an astonishingly wide array of options for secondary education, thanks to the solidity of long-standing private institutions, the success of the charter school movement, and the enterprise of niche private schools.
Here’s a glimpse: For the lover of English, The Tatnall School has more than 50 English courses. For the teen aspiring to an allied medical career, a Henry C. Conrad School of Science education gives college and job seekers a standout application. Students who haven’t had success in traditional classroom settings find that Positive Outcomes Charter School delivers what its name claims. Students who are motivated by a team atmosphere and clear boundaries find them at Caravel Academy.
The challenge is narrowing down the choices to the single best fit for your prospective student. There are lots of numbers out there: statistics on graduation and attrition rates, Scholastic Aptitude Test scores, teacher experience and more. Most will add something to the picture, Buttram says, but some are more important than others, in part because they are widely available, directly comparable, and get to the core of what people want to know. Others are more elusive but worth the hunt. A few are widely touted but don’t mean much. Here’s what the experts say about the big four: SAT scores, student to teacher ratio, AP classes, and college enrollment after graduation.