Academic Challenge program discontinued at DelTech

Green the Green/Students Lounging on the Green
Morgan Brownell/THE REVIEW
Beginning in 2017, the incoming class of 8th graders will no longer have the option to take college level courses as a part of the Academic Challenge program.


In 1987, Delaware Technical Community College (DelTech) began a partnership with the nine high schools districts in Sussex County, allowing kids to enter an accelerated academic program at the start of 8th grade.

For almost 30 years, students in the Academic Challenge program would attend the Georgetown campus of DelTech, and take English and math classes up until with the hope of completing the courses by the end of their sophomore year of high school. The students would then be able to complete up to 12 college credits of English and 15 college credits of mathematics during their last two years of high school.

The five year program offered college credits that could transfer to the University of Delaware. The partnership allowed the best and brightest from students in lower Delaware to get ahead academically.

Beginning in 2017, the incoming class of 8th graders will no longer have the option to take college level courses as a part of their curriculum.

According to Delmarvanow, the 423 students who are currently enrolled in the program will not be subject to the change and will be able to take those accelerated college courses at the beginning of their junior year.

For many years, Stephen Schwartz was a teacher in the Seaford school district and taught courses in cooperative learning and research methods. He is now one of the eight English professors teaching at DelTech as a member of the Academic Challenge program. He said the program’s enrollment is at an all-time high, citing the desires of incoming students to get ahead of the curve.

“A lot of students are able to enter college in sophomore standing,” he said.

Schwartz said that the initial pre-program examinations intimidated students, but proved to be a very good indicator of how one would do in the program. Thousands of kids have gone through the program and on to further successes, with some going on to receive Master’s and Doctoral degrees, he said.

But with the program ending next year, Schwartz is weary of the connection between his school and the University of Delaware. He said that under former President Harker, funding to the program decreased because Harker had his eyes on a bigger initiative: the proposed power plant on South Campus.

Schwartz said he is hopeful that current President Dennis Assanis will have more interest in the programs run at DelTech, but the overall interest from the university has dwindled.

“The University of Delaware has become the University of Newark,” he said. “Programs from Sussex have been weaned.”

As a former member of the Academic Challenge program, Dave Hignutt said that the program’s biggest incentive for students was the opportunity to get out of college-level English and math classes.

He said that when he was either 13 or 14 years old, he was essentially taking a college level class — something he is more appreciative of now than during the process.

But Hignutt was only in the program for two years, dropping out of it after the 9th grade and attending Sussex Tech High School. He said that he decided to leave because he was not set on staying in state for college. He is a journalism student at Arizona State University.

The difficulty of the program and the increased prospects of attending the university were motivators for many of his fellow students, Hignutt said. He continued to say that despite the program no longer being offered, he will always have fond memories of it.

“I supposed I liked the program,” he said. “I’m glad that it existed because it made the transition to college easier for the high school level students.”

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