Anticipating Growth in Delaware Assessment Data

July 16th, 2012

Category: News, Policy and Practice

The Delaware Department of Education is expected to release the full results of 2011-12 Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS) later this week.  The release follows last month’s announcement of preliminary data showing that 68% of Delaware students were proficient in reading and 69% in math – a seven percentage-point gain over last year’s results in both subjects.  This week’s release will include data at the district, school, and grade level, as well as detailed results for student populations (race, low-income, special education, etc.).

This year, the state made an important change to the way the DCAS is administered.  Like last year, students took the test in the fall, winter, and spring.  However, this year, districts were given the option of administering the spring test a second time to all or some of their students. 

As a teacher, I see this as a welcome change.  Every year, there are students who have a bad day that happens to coincide with testing: maybe they didn’t get much sleep the night before or they were in a loud testing room or for some other reason drastically underperformed.  Giving those students a second chance ensures a fair analysis of their academic-year growth and is especially important as DCAS scores begin to play a role in high school admission and college scholarships.  Additionally, this policy gives teachers the opportunity to react to the data between the first and second spring administration, prioritizing material and regrouping students according to demonstrated needs.

This is not to say that there are not logistical issues with the new exam cycle.  It’s very difficult to schedule testing time for every student on a school’s limited technological resources.  Moreover, it takes a lot of time to administer the DCAS: last year, my 7th graders took the DCAS 16 times over more than 32 class periods.  That adds up to an instructional time loss of at least 1,600 minutes (or 26.7 hours or 3.8 school days) per student.  There is a general interest among both teachers and policymakers to minimize the time lost to test administration.  As the Department plans to roll out multiple measures for non-DCAS subjects, it would be helpful to compile a document of best practices, highlighting what certain districts and schools are doing to create a positive testing environment while reducing instructional disruption.

When DDOE released data last month, they reported the last spring score recorded by each student, providing an apples-to-apples comparison with the single spring administration in 2010-11.  For the purposes of federal reporting and school accountability, however, the state will use the best score a student attained on either spring administration.  As a result, scores announced tomorrow will be even higher than initially reported.

We are excited to see the data once it is released.  We know there will be much cause for celebration (such as the seven-point jump in proficiency) as well as a lot of room for growth.  Here are a few things we will be looking at in the weeks to come:

  • How are Partnership Zone schools (particularly Round 1 Schools) and Vision Network  schools progressing?
  • Is there any connection between particular RttT initiatives and school-wide growth?
  • Are there particular grades that are significantly outperforming the other grades in their schools?
  • What schools are “beating the odds” – schools that are disproving the inverse correlation between achievement and poverty, showing tremendous growth and proficiency with a low-income population?

The data will be released publicly on Thursday.  Check back later in the week (and in the weeks to come) for our analysis.

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Dan Hay



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