A.I. du Pont High School.

As AI Du Pont’s high enrollments plummeted, so did the test scores

Lycée AI du Pont.

Lycée AI du Pont.

As enrollment declined at AI du Pont Secondary School beginning in 2008, the percentage of minority students and English language learners rose dramatically while test scores fell steadily.

That year, the school had 1,492 students. Today, only 680 students are enrolled at AI

In 2008, the student body was 24.1% black, 11.8% Hispanic, and 60.2% white, according to state bulletin records.

This year, 44.4% of the school’s enrollment is black, 35.7% is Hispanic and 15.7% is white.

The percentage of English learners has increased from 5.6% of students to 15.44% today.

The number of low-income students increased by 13.5%.

“I don’t believe the enrollment is related in any way to test scores,” Principal Kevin Palladinetti said.

Mark Pruitt, principal of secondary schools at Red Clay, said any comparison of test results should be taken with a grain of salt due to the pandemic.

“There are going to be a dip in every school in the state, and probably the country,” he said. “It’s been very difficult to get good data.”

But the school’s struggles didn’t start with the pandemic.

Data on AI du Pont High from 2008-2018.

Data on AI du Pont High from 2008-2018.

Data from 2008 to 2018 – all before the pandemic – showed that SAT scores and reading and math skills declined.

Palladinetti pointed out that enrollment didn’t drop 54% overnight.

“The decline in enrollment has been very gradual over time, so the impact on the building isn’t as dramatic as people assume,” he said. “We’re talking about a 10-11 year period here, so it’s been slow and steady.”

It’s easier for families with multiple children to send their kids to the same school, which means AI High often hasn’t lost a single student to another school – it’s lost the brothers too. and sisters and family members of that student.

Palladinetti noted that the state has changed its standardized testing pattern several times since 2008. And, he said, comparisons of yesterday’s and today’s SAT scores cannot be made, because only since 2016 have grade 11 students been required to take the test. It replaced the Delaware Smarter Balance state test for high school students.

“Because we’re not themed, we’re not accredited, we’re not magnetic, and we don’t have a selective enrollment process, we’re basically forcing kids into a testing environment that they can’t -be no interest or desire to sit,” Palladinetti said.

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Vic Leonard, a Red Clay school board member who taught AI for two decades, agreed with Palladinetti, saying many students “don’t take the SATs seriously.”

“A lot of these kids had no idea going to a four-year school,” Leonard said. “They would have just finished the test in two or three minutes.”

But low scores can discourage parents from making school choices, he said.

State Representative Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, who serves on the House Education Committee, says she has seen parents and families pull out of public education in Sussex County.

“Many parents in Georgetown have placed their children in charter schools, private schools and other situations because they feel their child is not learning at a level that is right for them,” said she declared.

She believes declining student achievement is one of the reasons enrollment at AI High has halved since 2008.

“We allow mediocrity, and parents aren’t going to accept it anymore,” Briggs King said. “Parents talk with their feet and they take their children out of school.”

New Castle County has plenty of alternatives, she pointed out.

“Districts have done wonderful things to reach the Latino community, but when over 90% of the class is English learners, there’s no way those who already speak English will learn at the pace that ‘Maybe they should,’ Briggs said. said the king. “These are the things people don’t want to say because they’re not politically correct, but people do talk.”

Future of Lycée AI du Pont

What happened to the AI ​​has been a hot topic at Red Clay Consolidated School District board meetings for the past three months.

Many reasons for declining student interest were cited at board meetings, including charter and magnetic schools attracting more red clay children; Odyssey Charter will open in 2015; the district ending bus transportation for students who chose IA; fewer students in AI’s feeding model, which includes wealthier areas where parents can afford private schools; and a few hundred fewer students in the district itself than then.

“We have more high school spaces than students,” said Red Clay School Board member Cathy Thompson. “I just think we have a ton of options, so a lot of parents choose different options.”

Thompson’s daughter attended AI High in 2008 when the district decided to cap the number of students at 300 per grade level.

“I know that was the first thing that caused the registrations to go down because the ‘preferred people’ couldn’t get in there anymore,” she said. “It was for a good reason.”

The the school was over capacity at the time and many lessons were held in trailers parked outside the school building.

It’s unfair to single out AI for its declining enrollment, Thompson said, because many other schools across the state have faced similar challenges.

“If we were to choose AI and increase enrollment there, it would only decrease enrollment elsewhere,” she said. “There just aren’t enough students, so you have to take a holistic view.”

Committee formed

Red Clay has already appointed a committee to research ways to revive interest in the school located on State Route 52 in Greenville.

Already, the idea of ​​making it a green campus and focusing on environmental science courses has gained ground.

Leonard, who nominated the task force as well as himself as head, noted that in 2007, when the magnet Conrad Schools of Science opened, 25% of AI High’s student body transferred there.

He hopes that finding a magnetic subject will have the same result for AI High.

Leonard was asked at the November board meeting to flesh out the committee’s membership to adhere to board policy before continuing to meet with government officials and others on the idea of ​​making AI green. .

Although Palladinetti has seen a decline in student achievement, he wants to focus on all the school has to offer. This includes a state-of-the-art eSports center that opened two weeks ago.

“We have an open day coming up and we’re showcasing the school – what we have to offer, our backgrounds, our programming and what some of our plans are worth exploring for the future,” said Palladinetti. “I would like the public to come and see us. It really is the best way to get a sense of a school.

AI open day will take place on Tuesday, December 6 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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