People always want to know about SAT scores, Buttram says, and for good reason: They indicate the caliber of student a school attracts. But, she says, don’t over-generalize their utility. They don’t describe how much learning is going on in the classroom. And although this national standardized test is about as apples-to-apples as you can get, she cautions against making straightforward comparisons between different types of schools. Charter schools tend to serve either less advantaged families, or a more mixed group, she says, while private schools largely serve families with more resources, and that makes a difference in what students bring to the classroom.
“If I were a charter being compared to private schools, I might be nonplussed,” Buttram says.
Still, Charles Baldwin, president of the Charter School of Wilmington, welcomes the comparison.
“If our whole premise is excellence without tuition, I want to know how we are doing,” he says. On that point, CSW looks great: its combined average of 1892 on SATs edges out prestigious private schools like Archmere Academy (1876), Tower Hill (1863) and Wilmington Friends School (1851) whose high school tuitions start around $22,000, and CSW approaches St. Andrew’s School’s impressive 1948, without the boarding school’s $49,500 annual price tag.
While CSW is the only charter in Delaware to reach so deeply into private school SAT territory, most of Delaware’s charter schools are within a respectable striking distance of the 1498 national average reported by the College Board, the organization that administers the test.
What number says something about the caliber of education prospective students expect? Check out the school’s waiting list, says Jack Wintermantel, superintendant at Delaware Military Academy in Wilmington. At DMA, there were more than 200 for the current academic year, a sign that families recognize the quality education the school delivers, he says.