Wilmington Charter School Essay

The Charter School of Wilmington is a high school in Wilmington, Delaware, one of the first public/private (self-governed, state funded) charter schools in the United States, opening in 1996. It shares the former Wilmington High School building with Cab Calloway School of the Arts and occupies the third floor and a wing of the second floor of the building. There were 970 students enrolled in the fall for the 2012-2013 school year.[4]


Charter schools in Delaware were authorized by Delaware Code, Title 14, Chapter five, enacted in 1995. The school is operated by a consortium of six companies: AstraZeneca, Verizon, Delmarva Power, DuPont, Hercules Incorporated, and Christiana Care Health System.

The Charter School of Wilmington was chartered by the Red Clay Consolidated School District, and was directly descended from the 'Academy of Mathematics and Science', an earlier (now defunct) math and science magnet school run by the district. The school is a college preparatory program that emphasizes mathematics and science education. The Cab Calloway School of the Arts also occupies the same building (formerly Wilmington High School).

The Charter School of Wilmington is a member of the National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Mathematics, Science and Technology.

The Charter School of Wilmington placed 10th in Newsweek's Best High Schools in 2014. It was ranked 127th in 2006, 75th in 2007, and 100th in 2008.[5] Furthermore, Charter placed 41st in 2007 and 42nd in 2008 as well as 2009 in U.S. News' America's Best High Schools, earning the Gold Medal.[6]

CSW was selected as a 2013 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education and a Recognition School by the Delaware Department of Education for exceptional performance in 2013. CSW is also currently ranked #10 on Newsweek’s America’s Top High School’s list (September 2014)and #30 on the Daily Beast’s Top High Schools list (August 2014). In June,2014, CSW's Jefferson Council was honored in Washington, D.C. by the Jefferson Awards as the 2014 National Silver Students in Action recipient for their philanthropic contribution to the community.

Novel approach to education[edit]

Modified Block Scheduling[edit]

Charter uses a modified block system. With three rotating classes and one fixed class of 80 minutes each (a mandatory study hall included) along with an "Activity Period" slot, the schedule allowed elongated class periods and eliminated the need for many lengthy, after-school extracurricular club meetings. Students have eight class periods total, and four classes per day thereby meeting with a class every other day.

Shared classes with Cab Calloway[edit]

Students may elect to take Cab classes focused on visual arts, drama, and the musical arts, UD classes, or any other Charter classes during these periods. Cab Calloway classes are still limited in the fact that time slots must match the two schools' schedules and thus certain courses can only be taken during certain class periods.

Research projects[edit]

During the junior year, all students complete a Science Fair project as a necessary requirement to graduate. The Science Fair requirement used to take place during the sophomore year, but restructuring of the research curriculum to better improve research skills beforehand required pushing back the Science Fair requirement. Starting in the 2010-2011 school year, freshmen are required to take Introduction to Scientific Research (instead of Geosystems, a now defunct class) to prepare them for Science Fair.


General graduation requirements[edit]

Delaware state standards mandate semester-long health education and a full year of physical education, split into semester-long sophomore and junior gym classes. The Introductory to Computer Science class satisfies the Delaware state standard for computer literacy, and three years of history and four years of math, science and English meet the state requirements for the respective subjects. A total of 24.5 credits are needed to graduate.

Advanced Placement[edit]

The school offers many advanced placement classes which allow students to earn college credit while still attending high school. Advanced placement courses include calculus (AB & BC), statistics, biology, chemistry, physics (C), environmental science, computer science (A), English literature, English language, Latin (Vergil), Latin literature, Spanish language, French language, U.S. history, U.S. government and politics, psychology, and economics. Many students choose to independently study for other AP exams or elect to take AP courses through the Cab Calloway School of the Arts.[7] Sometimes, academically motivated students prefer to self-study the material covered in an advanced placement class instead of attending the class. For students who choose APs as a part of their formal curriculum, taking the end-of-year national AP examination is required in order to pass the course.

Other Coursework[edit]

While not unique to Charter, there are some course offerings that are not seen at a majority of American high schools:

  • Software Engineering
  • Data Structures
  • Differential Equations
  • Digital Electronics Design
  • Introduction to Engineering, Robotics, and Data
  • Forensics
  • Calculus 3
  • Advertising and Marketing
  • Philosophy
  • Photography
  • Critical and Creative Thinking
  • Research and Publication in Human & Computer Interaction (Students published in international, blind-reviewed conferences.)
  • Nanotechnology
  • Modern Physics
  • Optics

Special tests[edit]

A challenge test administered to incoming freshmen allows prospective students to move up to Integrated Math III or skip the first year of a foreign language course if they test well. (Additional courses can be bypassed through other exams, such as the AP examinations or a French II final). Phases range from 3-6, with non-academic classes (i.e. Driver Education and Gym) at phase 4, phase 5 being considered as honors, and AP and post-AP classes (Calculus 3 and Differential Equations) designated as phase 6.


The student body is made up of 960 students as of 2007-2008, including 68% of students coming from area public school districts, and 32% of the students coming from Catholic and other private schools. However, the freshman class for the 2012-2013 school year consists nearly entirely of Red Clay Consolidated School District students. For the first time since the school's inception, a lottery with out-of-district siblings and children of the founding companies had to be performed. Additionally, the school had to accept fewer students than before, due to district constraints. 99% of students attend college upon graduation. Individual students have won many state and national awards in mathematics, general science, biology, physics, journalism, French, Spanish, Latin and forensics competitions. In addition, students have also gained recognition in sports and other extracurricular activities.[1]


The student to teacher ratio is 18:1, with an average class size of 24 students.[1]

Members of Charter's faculty were Delaware's English Teacher of the Year in 1997, Conservation Teacher of the Year in 1999, recipients of the Science/Math Excellence in Teaching Award from the Science Alliance in 1999, and Delaware's History Day Teacher of the Year in 2002.[1]



The clubs at Charter include:

  • A Capella club
  • Association for Computing Machinery - High school chapter
  • Art Club
  • Academic Bowl- National winner.
  • Bible Club
  • Chess Club
  • Drama Club
  • TEAMS Engineering Competition- Three time state champion and two time national champion for Division 4 Varsity
  • Envirothon - Perennial state champion, most recently 2008 champion of the North American Canon Envirothon competition, from among 45 states and nine Canadian provinces[8]
  • Gay-Straight Alliance
  • Humanitarian League of Delaware - Service Club[9]
  • Key Club[1]
  • Student Newspaper- The Force File
  • Math League - Perennial state champion since 1999 (except in 2010, where they only captured 2nd and 3rd places), national champion of Math League Press in 2005, 2008
  • Mock Trial - 3rd Place National Mock Trial 2008, 26th Place National Mock Trial 2009, 17th Place National Mock Trial 2010 - State Champions 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 17th in Nationals
  • Newspaper - Force Media
  • Council for Economic Education National Economics Challenge - Top 4 nationally in 2015
  • National History Bowl and Bee- National Champion
  • Physics Olympiad - Twenty-four semifinalists, nine finalists, and three traveling team members representing the USA at the International Physics Olympiad since the school's inception
  • USA Biology Olympiad - Two finalists and two traveling team member since the school's inception.
  • Science Olympiad - State Champion since school's inception
  • Ski Club - After Midterms and large tests a bus is chartered to bring students to a mountain where they ski and stay in a hotel for several days
  • Support our Soldiers
  • VEX Robotics - Top 10 nationally in 2006
  • Academic World Quest - Perennial state champions, usually top 15 nationally, until 2015 when they were beaten by Concord High School
  • Yearbook - Expectations, A potential candidate for the National Scholastic Press Association Pacemaker Award and Columbia Scholastic Press Association Crown Award.
  • Young Republicans
  • Young Democrats
  • Model United Nations
  • Helping the Underprivileged Globally (HUG) Club
  • URM (Under represented Minority) Cultural Awareness Club
  • World Quest
  • Patriots Club
  • Ultimate Frisbee Club - A fun club where students can enjoy the game of Ultimate with friends.



As both Charter School of Wilmington and Cab Calloway School of the Arts share the same building, students from both schools compete on teams representing Charter.


  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Cross Country 2008 State Runner-up
  • Football
  • Golf 2011 State Runner-up
  • Lacrosse
  • Soccer- held a national ranking of 12th in the 2010 season. State Runners up in 2015.[citation needed]
  • Swimming 2007, 2008, 2011 State Runner-up
  • Tennis
  • Track- Indoor & Outdoor 2010 State Runner-up
  • Volleyball 2005, 2008 State Champions
  • Wrestling 2016 Blue Hen Conference Champions


  • Basketball
  • Cheerleading-2006 State Champions; Runner-up, 2007 State Championships (Small Varsity)
  • Cross Country-2009 State Champions; 2009 County Champions, 2010 State Champions
  • Field Hockey
  • Golf
  • Lacrosse-2014 State Runners-up
  • Soccer- 2005 State Champion
  • Softball
  • Swimming 2006-2007 State Runner-up, 2007–2008, 2008–2009, 2009–2010, 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 State Champions
  • Tennis
  • Track- Indoor & Outdoor
  • Volleyball

Club sports[edit]

  • Fencing
  • Rowing
  • Ski
  • Table Tennis
  • Ultimate Frisbee
  • Basketball (intramural)

Newspaper / Force Media[edit]

The school newspaper, The Force File, is a brand-new digital-first newspaper owned and operated solely by students of Charter, started in the 2016 - 2017 school year. It is part of a larger organization known as Force Media, a group which consists of four Charter clubs: Newspaper Club, Photography Club, Ten Minutes Club (which runs a biweekly morning how at the school, called Ten Minutes) and Charter's chapter of The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). The content Force Media creates can be found at forcemedia.org.[10]

Standardized exam achievement[edit]

Test scores at The Charter School of Wilmington are consistently the highest in the state with 100%, 99%, and 100% of Charter students in 11th grade scoring at or above expectations in reading, writing, and mathematics, respectively.[11]

  • Top-scoring Delaware high school in Math Assessments (1998–2010) [1]
  • Top-scoring Delaware high school in Reading Assessments (1998–2010)
  • Top-scoring Delaware high school in Writing Assessments (1999–2010)
  • Top-scoring Delaware high school in Science Assessments (2000–2010)
  • Top-scoring Delaware high school in Social Studies Assessments (2000–2010)
  • Highest average SAT scores in the state (among all public high schools) (2000–2010)

Media Appearances[edit]

The Charter School of Wilmington's founder, Ronald Russo, has been featured on TruTV's The Principal's Office.

Notable alumni[edit]


External links[edit]

Students play cards out front after school.
The Charter Charger, named Lightning... Colloquially known as the "Force Horse."

CSWStudent just wrote a comment on the CSW story that really showed me a different picture of the school:

Some important things that this article ignores.

Firstly, the description of the distribution of ethnicity at Charter vs. the demographic of Wilmington, DE. The Charter School of Wilmington conducts its admittance based on an entrance exam. This exam is open to everyone, including the entire eight grade population of Wilmington. As a current student at CSW, it is to the best of my knowledge that there is a very slim number of the city of Wilmington residents that even apply to the school. This could likely be because students in the city may not feel like they have received an education that adequately prepares them for the rigor of CSW, which presents a new problem entirely. The education of Wilmington during the middle school years needs to be boosted and improved to a level where the students from that demographic can excel in the environment that CSW supports.

CSW is not a school for everyone. What makes it so special to me is the drive and motivation that every student there possesses. I am one of four kids from my middle school that was accepted at CSW. We applied, were accepted, and excel because we take the extra step, we attend seminars, we do extracurriculars. It has nothing to do with discrimination. If you meet the standards of the school, you have as good a chance as ANYONE else to get in.

Similar to the student in this article, I am not the general mold that you describe. I live out of the Red Clay School District, I don’t “comb my hair to the side”, and I take the bus every day as a senior (I would love a pick-up truck). I know the student who this article is mentioning, and I disagree in describing him as a minority who doesn’t fit in. I personally like him, and he has always been a popular, well known member of the community.

I love the Charter School of Wilmington. It has presented me with varying challenges that push my boundaries, and I have used the opportunities presented to me to push myself and learn all that I can. Articles like this slander the name and reputation of a school that provides an incredible environment for exceptional and unique students. I have never once seen any form of discrimination, and personally am upset by these accusations.

To which I responded:

Thank you for your comments CSW student. I think your comments do more to prove my point about selective student enrollment than anything I could have ever written. I never said the student didn’t fit in. CSW should be a school for everyone. I attended an Enrollment Preference Task Force meeting discussing the very idea of placement tests as a method of enrollment. It was overwhelmingly agreed by all but 2-3 people on this task force of about 20 members, that any placement test should be given AFTER a student was accepted. You wrote “this article slanders a school that provides an incredible environment for exceptional and unique students”. Would you like to know who else has exceptional and unique students? The rest of Delaware. In fact, the term “exceptional” in Delaware typically means students with disabilities, of which CSW has .2% of their students on an IEP. The discrimination happens before a student ever gets through the door there. By picking these “exceptional and unique students” the discrimination has already been committed.

Furthermore, your comments show exactly why CSW has the “reputation” it does as an outstanding school. Which is causing me to rethink some things. This article proves CSW may keep certain people out of the school but they can’t keep everyday problems out of the school. But they sure can do their best to cover it up to make everything look pretty on the outside. You have inspired me for my next article. Thank you.

I posted earlier today about a fact that was not given to me until after I posted my article on Sunday.  In examining this fact, it may not be the overall “smoking gun” it appears to be.  There are still several questions about due process on the school’s part that have not been answered to my satisfaction.  So I will challenge the Charter School of Wilmington to reach out to me to present those facts.  Because here’s the bottom line: no matter what evidence the school thinks they had, did they follow state code and law in determining guilt or innocence?  Was their coercion involved?  Why did they not notify the police right away?  Why did the police wait 23 days to make an arrest which just happened to be the student’s 18th birthday?  Where is the paperwork involved with this incident?  Can the school provide any of this paperwork?  Why did they wait so long to report it to the DOE when state law says they have to submit it within two business days?  Would they have reported it had the mother not already called the DOE and found out there was NO reporting of the incident?  Did the school make their “deal” of suspension with services and no walking at graduation or expulsion to all four of the students involved?  Can they legally make “deals” like that?  How many “deals” have they performed without public knowledge?  Are they aware this greatly affects public impressions of their school by skewing the data involved when parents seek out schools for their children?  Did they follow state law for search and seizure? Were they allowed to search through a student’s cell phone and open up apps?  Was there involvement by the Board of Directors during any of this process?

I’ve received many comments from folks who I believe to have strong ties with Charter School of Wilmington.  They are all anonymous.  They have asked me to prove one case of discrimination against the school.  Look at their demographics.  It may be legal in Delaware, but don’t think it doesn’t spit in the face of every single Title I, IDEA and civil rights law in the country.  This is a charter school pretending to be a private school, and Delaware has allowed this for seventeen years.  We can all sit here and pretend they are the best school in the state, but let’s not forget how they got there.

As for Bill and his mother, were mistakes made, yes.  I even made some mistakes with this story.  But when does one story become bigger than the individuals involved and the heart of it becomes a systemic issue within the school?  In my opinion, if the school is concealing information with regards to incidents happening there, then they are allowing these incidents to happen in the first place.  And then they want to complain when one mother wants to stand up and fight this system?  In my eyes, no matter what Bill did, concealing incidents at a school and giving students and parents a “Sophie’s Choice” with discipline is manipulative and deceitful.  Is it to protect the students or is it to cover their own ass?

**Updated**5/20/15, 10:13pm: I do not expect CSW to provide documentation to me concerning this incident.  What I do hope to see is this issue seeing the light of day in regards to due process, and as a result of that, this documentation would be seen by someone who would be able to render a legal decision on due process in this case.

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