Delaware Students Lag Nationally, Internationally; Potential Remains
Fewer than one-third of Delaware high school graduates meet international standards reading and mathematics, placing Delaware below the US average, below neighboring states, and in line with countries including Latvia, Hungary, Poland, and Estonia. However, we compete with the top 10 countries in reading, so are positioned to be competitive in the coming years.
According to Globally Challenged: Are America’s Students Ready to Compete?, Delaware falls behind 10 and 28 countries in reading (31.3% proficient) and math (30.5% proficient), respectively. Massachusetts had the highest state proficiency averages in reading (40.5%) and math (50.7%), and the highest performing countries were South Korea (47% in reading, 58% in math) and Finland (46% reading, 56% in math). (In order to compare performance between states and nations, researchers compared international performance on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) to American student performance on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)).
These results beg the question: What are we doing (or not doing) to prepare our students to successfully compete in tomorrow’s global economy? As covered previously, there are many policies and practices these high-performing countries utilize that vaulted them to the top, which Delaware is putting in place or for which Rodel has advocated for previously. These include:
- Developing strong leaders at the district and local level, similar to our career pathways and the Delaware Leadership Project;
- Limiting entry into the teaching profession to top tier candidates, as in Finland;
- Expecting continuous improvement among staff through meaningful evaluations tied to professional development, as in Singapore; and
- Investing resources more flexibly at the school level, which various stakeholders have advocated for previously, including Rodel, Vision 2015, the LEAD Committee, and Governor Markell.
In Delaware, we must maintain our sense of urgency by focusing on the ends and providing teachers/leaders flexibility and support around the means. If we keep up this work, we could be on our way to lifting overall student achievement on par to our international counterparts.