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Why This matters

Some Sobering Numbers

  • Unfair disparities between Delaware children based on poverty and race begin before those children even enter kindergarten.  The percentage of low-income students entering kindergarten in Delaware who are recorded as “accomplished” on kindergarten entrance evaluations in language ranges from 44% to 47%; students who do not live in poverty range from 57% to 60%.  Low-income students scoring “accomplished” in mathematics range from 32% to 34%; students who do not live in poverty range from 48% to 50% (Delaware Department of Education Office of Early Learning).    Similar inequities exist with respect to race.


  • These unfair disparities continue into elementary school, particularly at schools where extraordinarily high percentages of the students live in poverty.  At Warner Elementary School, where 74.3% of the students are classified by the state as low income, 7% of the students met or exceeded state proficiency levels in math in the 2018-2019 school year, and 14% in English Language Arts.  The district-wide numbers for the Red Clay School District were 40% in math, and 51% in English Language Arts.  The numbers ranged as high as 53-61% in math and 59-63% in English Language Arts for Red Clay students attending the Red Clay elementary schools with the fewest students classified as low income.  Similar disparities are found in Christina School District.  At Bancroft School in 2018-2019 (where 77.8% of the students are classified as low income), 14% of students tested proficient in English Language Arts, compared to a district-wide percentage of 39% and percentages that ranged as high as 60-63% in Christina elementary schools with lower percentages of students classified as low income. (Delaware State Report Card, 2020)


  • Over eighty percent of the juveniles released from Delaware’s Level 4 and Level 5 juvenile detention facilities are re-arrested within eighteen months of release. (Delaware Statistical Analysis Center)​

Action for Delaware’s Children Proposes Solutions Based on Sound Evidence

1. The Redding Consortium’s recommendation for an expansion in home visitation programs for children living in low income households is supported by a wealth of data.  National studies of the Nurse Family Partnership home visitation program have demonstrated a reduction in language delays and improvement in vocabulary, reduction in behavioral problems at elementary school ages, reduction in involvement in the juvenile justice system in teen years, and a variety of other positive outcomes among children who have had the benefit of the Nurse Family Partnership program.   Healthy Families America, the model program on which Healthy Families Delaware is based, reports results ranging from fewer first-grade retentions, fewer behavioral problems, and increased use of medical homes for young children.  (Healthy Families America) A third Delaware program, Parents as Teachers, is also based upon a national model program that has demonstrated success in areas such as reduced incidences of child abuse and neglect and lower rates of school discipline. (Parents as Teachers National Center)


2. The Redding Consortium’s recommendation for quality, full-day Pre-K for three- and four-year-olds in feeder patterns for high-poverty elementary schools is also supported by a wealth of research.  National research demonstrates that early intervention can increase favorable outcomes for students facing barriers of race and poverty. Formal, center-based early childhood education has proven to be particularly effective in improving students’ experiences in kindergarten and beyond. (School Psychology Review


3. Research shows that implementation of quality outside-school-time programs will improve performance among students living in poverty, and help diversify Delaware’s teaching ranks.  The unmet need for outside-school-time programs is higher among students facing barriers of race and poverty. (After-School Alliance) There is robust research showing that well-designed programs that provide programming to students outside the traditional school day have a variety of benefits, particularly for students living in poverty. (American Journal of Community Psychology) Studies have also noted, however, that to have a tangible impact – whether measured through graduation rates, homework completion, math and reading assessments, or overall health and well-being – programs must be thoughtful, comprehensive, and well-designed. (National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing) Outside School Time programs also provide schools with a means to more quickly diversify the population of adults who are educating and interacting with Black and Hispanic students.  The Delaware Department of Education’s statewide statistics indicate that in 2019, 81.97% of public school teachers were white. (Delaware Department of Education) By contrast, 42.7% of the state’s public school students were white. (Delaware Department of Education) There are multiple studies showing the benefits of receiving instruction from Black teachers for both academic and non-academic outcomes among Black students. (The Growing Out-Of-School Time Field, Past, Present and Future) Although efforts to diversify the ranks of the state’s teachers are critical and should be enhanced, “because they are more flexible and less bureaucratic than traditional schools, OST programs can more immediately provide youth of color with high-quality teaching and mentoring staff who reflect their diversity.” (The Growing Out-Of-School Time Field, Past, Present and Future)

4. Research also demonstrates the importance of school-based wellness centers for low income students. (Global Pediatric Health)

5. Additional research supporting the Redding Consortium’s recommendations can be found in the Consortium’s interim report to the Delaware General Assembly and Governor. (Redding Consortium)

6. Multiple studies support the efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy and vocational training in reducing recidivism among juveniles who have committed prior offenses. (Georgetown Center for Juvenile Justice Reform)


The Nurse Family Partnership home visitation program is a highly successful, national model program that has nurses with manageable caseloads visit the homes of first-time mothers living in poverty.  The visits begin when the mothers are early in the pregnancy, and continue until their children are two years old.  Delaware has had a Nurse Family Partnership program for some time, but only a small fraction of the state’s first-time mothers under the poverty line participate in the program.


Because the Nurse Family Partnership is a national model program that has been in place around the country for decades, there is strong empirical evidence showing its outcomes for children and parents who participate.  Among the documented results from Nurse Family Partnership programs around the country are a 48% reduction in incidents of child abuse and neglect, a 50% reduction in language delays for children at 21 months of age, a 67% reduction in language reception deficiencies at age 6, and a 59% reduction in child arrests at age 15. (more info from the Nurse Family Partnership here)  Journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn referred to the program as “stunningly effective” in a 2014 New York Times article on anti-poverty programs.


Action for Delaware’s Children seeks to expand the state’s support for this effective home visitation program, so that more of Delaware’s at-risk children can receive the proven benefits that it brings.


Delaware should provide more educational and support services for its low income students before and after the school day, and during the summer months.  Providing at risk children with a safe, supportive environment that augments their regular school schedule is a good use of state funds that will show real benefits in the lives of the state’s at risk children.


Recent comprehensive studies have documented that well-designed “outside school time” programs, which provide services for students before school, after school, and in the summer months, have a demonstrable impact on student performance and achievement.  Outside school time funds in Delaware have never met demands, and unfortunately outside school time funding was significantly reduced in Delaware (along with most other discretionary state expenses) during the fiscal crisis that followed the stock market crash of 2009.  Approximately $10.8 million in “extra time funds” were eliminated from the state’s public education budget, and the Delaware Department of Education estimates that at least 80% of those funds (i.e. over $8 million per year) came from OST programs.


Current state funding for after-school programs in Delaware comes primarily from three programs: the 21st Century Community Learning Center program, which has awarded $500,000 to $2 million per year; a $2.25 million/year competitive grant program overseen by DSCYF; and slightly more than $2 million in the annual grant-in-aid bill.  There are approximately 43,774 low income students attending public school in Delaware statewide.  Thus, even assuming that every dollar in Delaware OST funds went to low income students, the state’s expenditure per month on OST programs for low income students is approximately $11.90 per month. 


The State of Delaware recently made available approximately $20 million per year in “Opportunity Grant” funds to Delaware public schools, distributed roughly according to the number of low-income and English as a Second Language students in each school district.  Those funds can be used for Outside School Time programs.  However, with the exception of the Colonial School District, it does not appear that a significant amount of these funds are being used by the largest recipients for outside school time programs.


In short, low income students in Delaware would benefit from an increase in OST services.  We propose that the state achieve this goal by increasing the competitive grant funds that are available through DSC&F’s competitive grant program, and that the increase in funds be specifically for programs that are targeted at schools with high populations of low income students.


Although the population of Delaware’s juvenile correctional facilities has dropped significantly since 2014, the rate of recidivism remains stubbornly high.  Almost 80% of the youth released from a juvenile detention facility in Delaware committed a new criminal offense within 18 months of release.  A quarter of the youth committed new felony offenses within twelve months of release.  This is disappointing but not entirely surprising.  Many of these  young people are returning to the same homes, neighborhoods, and acquaintances that they had just before they committed offenses serious enough to receive a sentence to a detention facility.


Delaware provides focused mentoring for students released from its secure correctional facilities through the Delaware Youth Advocate Program.  However, national studies have suggested that additional benefits can accrue to juveniles leaving correctional facilities from cognitive behavioral therapy.  In fact, a preliminary study just released by the University of Chicago crime lab showed a 38% reduction in violent offenses over an 18 month period among juveniles who participated in a trauma-informed cognitive behavioral therapy program that accompanied Chicago’s Youth Advocate Program.


In addition to cognitive behavioral therapy, Delaware Youth Advocate Program mentors have told their supervisors that the largest unmet need among the juvenile offenders they oversee is vocational training.


We propose that the state make competitive grant funds available to complement its existing Youth Advocate Program in order to provide cognitive behavioral services and vocational training to youth being released from juvenile correctional institutions.

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