In Delaware, children must be five years old on or before August 31 to be eligible for kindergarten that year. However, parents may submit a request for a delay in admission to the district for consideration and some districts offer consideration for children who are five no later than Sept. 3- of the enrolling year.
PIC Tip: Many districts have special open houses and registration schedules for kindergarten. Visit the district webpage or call ahead to the school to see if one of these open houses is scheduled. Schools will ask that your child join you during registration. It is a wonderful opportunity for you both to learn more about the school and the kindergarten experience.
Delaware school districts have developed “feeder patterns” to help make sure students attend a school within 5 miles of their home, if possible. The map of the school districtsthroughout the state and the individual schools in the district may help you identify your local school.
Parents or guardians enrolling their child in the district for the first time must provide an official birth certificate, proof of required immunizations and a physical exam, proof of residence (a utility bill matching mailing address, a signed and dated lease or settlement statement, current rent receipt with property address and renter’s name), picture ID. Guardians will need to provide legal proof of guardianship. Older students, especially high school students will be asked to bring past school records or an official transcript. Once you have determined the school your child will attend, it is best to call to confirm the documentation that is required.
School districts and charter schools may not require proof of citizenship or a social security number in order for a child to be enrolled in a public school. The school may require a birth certificate, but cannot deny enrollment based on a foreign birth certificate. The federal Department of Justice offers guidance on enrollment practice.
Each district will have its own procedures, but, at minimum, you will need to provide proof of residence to establish your child’s eligibility to attend school in that district. Within Delaware, the receiving school will request student records from the sending school. The receiving school may ask for copies of your child’s last report card or transcripts to help ease the transition and ensure appropriate placement in classes. Before a change of enrollment is considered, the new school must have a completed enrollment form. For families transferring from other states, it is important to bring a copy of your child’s record from the previous school as well as the address and phone number from the previous school. This will allow the receiving school to contact the former school for any additional information.
PIC Tip: If you are changing schools, it is a good idea to inform in writing (email is OK) the school you are leaving of your intentions. They may have a form that they require for their records that reflects the change.
Following are links to enrollment information for school districts in Delaware.
Note that Delaware vocational school districts have a selective application process and timeline.
Note that charter schools have individually determined application processes and policies. Schools that have more applicants than seats cannot guarantee admission. Charter school admission information is available at these links.
In 1996, school districts began offering families the opportunity to attend a school outside of the traditional feeder pattern through school choice. Each school district has its own policy regarding choice applications, priorities, and schools that are open for “choice” enrollment.
Applications must be obtained from the school district where the choice school is located and returned to that district. A separate application is required for each child applying for choice.
The application deadline to submit an application for school choice in Delaware for students in grade 1-12 is the second Wednesday in January. Kindergarten school choice applications are due on or before the first day of school for the child. If your family is considering choice, it is important to contact the district of the school you are interested in to learn about the policies and procedures for choice in that district. Not all schools have space for new students through school choice and districts have different policies in determining availability and the process for awarding school choice seats.
Districts inform parents the results of choice enrollment by the last day of February for students in grades 1-12, and by June 15 for kindergarten students. However, districts may offer choice following that deadline if additional seats are available. Again, individual districts maintain their own policies regarding availability of choice enrollment.
Application deadlines may be eased in the case of “good cause”. This means that parents who have a good reason why they could not apply before the deadline may be able to still apply. Good cause can include a change in family residence, change in parent’s marital status, change in legal guardianship, placement in foster care, adoption, participation in a foreign exchange program, or participation by a child in a substance abuse or mental health treatment program, or a set of circumstances consistent with the definition of “good cause”.
Transportation is not provided for students participating in school choice that is beyond the district’s regular transportation plan. A district is only required to provide transportation for a choice student from a regular bus route within the district.
Parents that have “choiced” their children into schools should know that choice students are expected to remain enrolled for at least two years. Restrictions related to participation in interscholastic sports at the high school level also may apply to students who have transferred to a new school through choice.
Districts may terminate a student’s enrollment in a choice school prior to the conclusion of the two year enrollment and require the student to return to her home school if she fails to meet academic, attendance, or code-of-conduct requirements. Students who are serving a suspension may not choice into a school before the suspension has been completed. Before “choicing” into a school, it is important to understand the expectations and commitment entailed in selecting a school through the choice system.
Learn more about the state's school choice system and new regulations here.
PIC Tip: If you are interested in applying to a school for your child through school choice, call the district of your preferred school to learn about the process. Before submitting an application, visit the school, learn the bus route that you may access for transportation, and talk with teachers and the principal. A school that your neighbor may like may not be a good fit for your family. Make sure you follow procedure and retain a copy of your paperwork.
Charter schools are another option in school choice. Charter schools are free, public schools that are independently operated from districts and intended to improve student learning .
To establish a charter school, a group must apply to an authorizer. An authorizer in Delaware can be either the Delaware Department of Education or a local school district. Currently, only the Red Clay School District is a district authorizer of charter schools. The authorizer is responsible for reviewing the initial charter to ensure that it meets requirements set out by law and regulation. The authorizer is also responsible for monitoring the quality of the charter school and intervening if problems arise that may challenge the school’s ability to meet the expectations outlined in the charter.
Charter schools are independently operated with their own governing boards. Charter schools are exempt for many rules and regulations that apply to school districts, but must assure compliance with laws or regulation related to curriculum, teacher evaluation, students with disabilities, testing, heath, safety, and other areas essential to quality education.
Because charter schools are independent schools, any concerns a parent or guardian may have about a school should be directed first to the school. When all efforts fail to address the issue, parents may contact the authorizer to seek a solution. The Department of Education asks parents of charter school students with concerns that have not been met after working with the school's teachers and administrators to follow the Complaint Process to register their concern. Parents of children with a disability who are enrolled in a charter school also have access to the special education complaint procedures outlined in Parents are the Key, the PIC pamphlet on special education in Delaware.
Most charter schools have admission through lottery, which means that the students selected are based on a random selection. If a charter school has identified certain preferences, some students may have a better chance at admission than others who do not meet the preference. Charter schools inform parents if students have been accepted around the same time as the school choice acceptances are made.
Parents who accept enrollment at a charter school must remain in the school for one year, according to state law, unless there is “good cause” for the student’s change in school. Good cause can be a family move or change in living arrangements. Unlike choice schools, charter schools may not dismiss a student from the charter school because of poor academics, attendance, or disciplinary infractions. Charter schools may suspend students if they do not follow the school’s code of conduct.
PIC Tip: Be sure to call or visit the school’s website in early September of the year prior to your intended enrollment to learn more about that school’s admission process. As with school choice, before making a commitment, visit the charter school and meet teachers and administrators to make sure it is a good fit for your family.
Yes, charter schools that do not meet the expectations outlined in their charter may be closed. The process of closing a charter school begins with a formal review of the school by the authorizer. The authorizer outlines specific issues identified for formal review, and then provides the charter school the opportunity to respond to those issues. Several public meetings are held where the public may listen in on the decision-making process. Before issuing a final decision, the authorizer must hold a public hearing where any member of the public may provide input into the formal review. At the conclusion of the formal review, the board (either district or state) will vote to determine whether to place conditions for continued operation of the school and keep the school on formal review status or recommend closure.
Academic standards outline academic skill expectations of every student by defining the knowledge, concepts, and skills that students should acquire at each grade level. Every district and charter must demonstrate that the information (content) being taught in the classrooms meets the agreed upon state academic standards in all subject areas. These standards are a road map that guide teachers on what they should cover throughout the school year to ensure that their students are ready for the next school year, and eventually college or career. Common Core Standards are a group of standards by grade in math, language arts, and science that have been adopted by most states. The National PTA has developed an easy to understand review of the standards here.
The Common Core Content Standards (CCCS) are a national set of standardsin reading and mathematics. Delaware is among the 45 states that are in the process of adapting its current state standards to CCCS. Districts are expected to have the new Common Core Content Standards fully in place by the 2014-2015 school year. To learn more about the Common Core Content Standards, the National PTA has developed a series of guides available through theDelaware PTA.
The federal Elementary and Secondary EducationAct (also known as No Child Left Behind) requires that each state must measure the progress of every child in a public school in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and at least once during grades 10 through 12. States must also have in place science assessments. Delaware tests all students in the state on science achievement in grades 5, 8, and 10. Delaware also tests students in social studies achievement in grades 4 and 7 In Delaware, the state test that is used for this accountability purpose is called the Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS).
DCAS is a computer-based test given several times throughout the year. It is designed to help schools and districts identify student progress in meeting grade-level content standards and help the state and federal government evaluate school and district quality on effectiveness in teaching state academic standards. All students of all abilities (except for those students with profound intellectual disabilities) are tested, although students with significant intellectual disabilities are given an alternative test, DCAS-Alt1.
When looking at DCAS test scores on the letter from the Delaware Department of Education sent home at the end of the school year to families, parents will see a number that indicates their child’s “score” on the test and where that number fits in a range of groupings for student performance. There are four groupings: Advanced, Meets standard, Below standard, Well below standard. Students are expected to “meet standard” by the last time they attempt the DCAS in spring. Visit the DCAS portal to learn more.
Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) is another aspect of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) regulation under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. AYP is determined based on final test scores from DCAS as well as other data related to school quality. The state uses this information to identify high performing schools as Reward or Recognition schools and struggling schools as Focus schools, which receive significant support from the state. With the waiver, Delaware Department of Education no longer identifies schools at any particular level as it did in the past (superior, commendable, academic watch, under improvement). Instead, it notes the amount of support the school needs to help students succeed from “minimal” to “intense”.
High school students will take End-of-Course tests instead of the general DCAS testing used in lower grades. But like the DCAS, the results of the tests are used to evaluate how well a school is educating students. The End-of-Course test is designed similar to a class final, focusing on the content that was presented throughout the year in the class.
DCAS-Alt1 is the alternative test for students in special education who are not on the diploma track. Project ACCESS from the University of Delaware Center for Disabilities Studies offers resources for parents on the test. The official DCAS-Alt1 link is available here.
National Association of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests 4th and 8th graders in math and reading and is used nationally (DCAS is only used in Delaware). The NAEP uses the data to track student performance by state. Individual student scores for the NAEP are not shared with parents or educators. This test is taken in the spring.
ACCESS Language Proficiency Test provides information on English Language Learner students who are becoming more familiar with English. This test is taken in the spring.
Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia practice test was taken in spring by some students in grades 3-11.The SBAC is a consortium of states’ education leaders from around the country working to develop next-generation assessments that accurately measure student progress toward college- and career-readiness. The SBAC test is nationally oriented around the Common Core State Standards and is projected to be in participating states – and schools – by the 2014-2015 school year. To learn more about SBAC, visit HERE.
DIBELS tests are typically used with younger students and assess early literacy skills. They are designed to be short (one minute) fluency measures used to regularly monitor the development of early literacy and early reading skills. Some schools may use DIBELS as one resource for placement in Response to Intervention (see below).
SAT or Scholastic Aptitude Test is provided to all juniors in Delaware through the duration of Race to the Top funding. The SAT, however, is also offered independently through the College Board, a private testing company. The SAT is required for admission to many colleges and universities and scores on the SAT can help predict the likelihood of acceptance based on the average scores other accepted students have posted. The PSAT may be offered at some high schools, also. The PSAT is the Pre-SAT test, and using the same format, helps families better understand students’ strengths and weaknesses.
Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) testing was common in Delaware schools before DCAS. Many schools use MAP testing as another way of measuring student progress toward meeting content standards. MAP testing takes place several times a year and measures academic growth toward achieving grade level standards.
In Delaware, truancy is defined by law as unexcused absences from school. Parents or legal guardians are responsible for a student’s attendance at school. The school may call a truancy meeting with the student, parent or guardian, and related staff initially to address truancy issues. If a student continues with truancy issues, the school may pursue court action against the parent/guardian. Please visit the link to the state truancy law to learn more. http://delcode.delaware.gov/title14/c027/sc02/index.shtml
Delaware has regulations require consistent levels of discipline for specific infractions. Students found with a firearm on campus (including parking lots and grounds) must be expelled for at least one year. Students that have drug or alcohol infractions also face required suspension times. Each school district and charter school maintains its own code of conduct that outlines expectations, although infractions are reported in a standardized fashion in the state’s electronic records data program. Some students who have discipline infractions may be referred to a district’s Alternative Program or other alternative placement. Visit the link related to state regulations to learn more.
At the high school level, there are a minimum number of credits in required classes for graduation. Current students must complete a minimum of 22 credits and the Class of 2015 will be required to complete 24 credits to qualify for graduation from high school in Delaware. Families are required to complete the Student Success Plan (SSP) each year starting in 8th grade. The SSP is designed to make sure that students are on the path to graduation. Your child’s school has information on how to access the SSP via the internet. If you do not have access to the internet, be sure to inform the school so a different arrangement can be made. Students that fail a required course for graduation should check with the district about policies for making up a failed course.
PIC Tip: It is essential to read your school’s code of conduct and student handbook to better understand the various policies that can impact your child in case of an attendance, discipline or academic issue. It is important for parents/guardians to contact the school if there appears to be an issue in these areas so all may work together before an issue becomes a serious problem that will prevent your child from graduating!
It is important to bring your concern to the teacher first. Most school principals will ask parents to meet with the teacher first before moving the problem “up the ladder” to the principal. If you have talked with the teacher and haven’t had any response, write a note or send an email to the teacher outlining the concern. If you do not hear back from the teacher, then contact the school principal in writing. If you cannot come to an agreement on the issue, you may wish to contact the district office for assistance. Parents of children with disabilities who have concerns may also pursue their complaint at the state level, depending upon the situation. Procedural safeguards for students with disabilities are available through the Department of Education.
As a parent, it may seem confusing as to how a school district is organized and who determines what happens in your school or district. Most districts have directories on their websites that will help you identify the right person for your question or concern.
At your school:
The teacher is in charge of the classroom. However, the teacher has a number of procedures, policies, and regulations that help guide what is taught, how discipline is handled, and other day-to-day interactions with students and other teachers.
The school administration includes the principal, assistant principals, deans, guidance counselors, and other staff who typically don’t have classroom duties. These are the leaders of the school, and most often, teachers “report to” an administrator. Administrators evaluate teachers and staff, ensure that policies, procedures, and regulations are followed in the classroom, work with school committees (like parent groups or other committees), as well as participate in district and statewide meetings.
At your district:
Administrative offices such as transportation, food services, and the choice office may be a stop when you have a specific question that cannot be answered by your child’s teacher or someone in the administration at your child’s school. These administrators are specialists in their area on district policy and procedure. Because these administrators handle questions from across the district, they can be very busy and unable to answer your question immediately. It is best to put your question in writing (email is OK) and provide a phone number as an option for reply.
Special services or pupil services administrators often work with issues related to special education. They are the district experts on disabilities and services and are well-versed in the district, state, and federal policies, procedures and regulations related to special education. You may meet someone from the district from this area of administration if your child is evaluated for a disability or has a disability. It is important to follow the appropriate chains of communication (beginning with the school level first) before moving to the district level if you have a concern.
The superintendent and assistant superintendants oversee the operations for a school district. Other district administrators report to the superintendent. Superintendents are responsible for making sure the district runs smoothly. As managers for the district, superintendents report to the school board on issues from all aspects of the district. Parents should feel free to call or write to request a meeting with superintendents, but should keep in mind that due to hectic schedules, it may take a while to set a meeting date. When asking to meet, be clear about your purpose and if your request for a meeting is related to a specific concern, provide information about the history of your efforts to resolve the issue.
The district school board is the governing body of the district. District school board members are elected officials and meet regularly. Districts’ publish board meeting dates, minutes, and often post to websites audio recordings of board meetings. At meetings, the board hears reports from district representatives on progress for various initiatives and votes on issues such as staffing, budgets, and other areas for planning. All school board meetings are public, which means anyone can attend. At various times in the meeting, the school board provides time for public input. Public meetings may go into “executive session” where limited, sensitive issues may be discussed away from public. The limitations of what can be discussed in executive session are outlined in state’s Sunshine Law. http://delcode.delaware.gov/title29/c100/index.shtml
As with a district school, the teacher is in charge of the classroom. The teacher has a number of procedures, policies, and regulations that help guide what is taught, how discipline is handled, and other day-to-day interactions with students and other teachers. Charter schools may have unique curriculum offerings or expectations related to student behavior and academic performance. State law allows charter schools exemption from certain regulations so that teachers may implement innovative strategies for learning.
The school administration includes the principal, assistant principals, deans, guidance counselors, and other staff who typically don’t have classroom duties.
The school leader at a charter school directly reports to the charter school board of directors. Charter schools are a hybrid of public schools and non-profit corporations. While a charter school must follow the state’s open meetings law, the board is not publicly elected. The charter school board of directors must follow the same open meetings laws as school districts. It is important to note that the “charter” that was approved by the authorizer and held by the school is under the management of the board.
The Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) is the administrative head of education in the state. While it does not directly deliver any services in districts, it serves several primary purposes: 1) Oversight of implementation of state and federal programs; 2) Development and training on state academic standards and testing; 3) Coordination of statewide programs, including career, technical, and Title 1 resources, and teacher evaluation and credentialing standards and 4) financial and human resources oversight.
Various administrators head up branches that are subdivided into workgroups. Each workgroup is comprised of specialists in an area who can advise district leaders on implementation of a program, such as Race to the Top, at the district or school level.
The Secretary of Education in Delaware is appointed by the Governor. The Governor also appoints new members to the State Board of Education. The State Board of Education approves regulation changes and also serves as the final approving body for authorizing DDOE charter schools. The State Board meets monthly, and allows limited public comment. Before making public comment, visitors are asked to sign up prior to the meeting.
At the beginning of the school year, families will receive information about the program and must fill out the form that outlines instructions on application. The school will inform parents of acceptance in the program once the form has been completed and reviewed. The determination as to whether a student qualifies for free meals or reduced price meals is based on family income. Parents may appeal the decision or may reapply if there is a change in income. These forms are essential also in helping the school access federal Title 1 funding, which is federal financial support identified to help students from low income families.
Families may apply for this program at any time of the school year. If you feel you may qualify, you may access the forms either by calling your school or visiting the district website.