State Test Scores Released Today

July 21st, 2011

Category: News

The Delaware Department of Education just released the results of the new Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS) for the 2010-11 school year.  Here’s what we can expect from the first-year results and how we can use and interpret them.

In previous years, students took the Delaware Student Testing Program (DSTP), a paper-and-pencil test administered in the spring that scored students on a continuum of five performance levels, with a performance level of 3 indicating proficiency.  Beginning in the 2010-11 school year, students are now assessed using the DCAS, a computer-adaptive test administered three times a school year (fall, winter, and spring).  The DCAS has only four performance levels, with a performance level of 3 still indicating proficiency. 

Scores on this year’s DCAS decreased relative to previous year’s DSTP scores.  Last year, the state adopted much more rigorous standards for proficiency that are better aligned with national standards, such as NAEP and PISA.  This drop in proficiency should not be read as though Delaware school children unlearned years of education over the past 12 months.  Ideally, standards are an appropriate gauge of how students compare against their peers nationally and internationally.  If the DCAS is a more accurate gauge of student performance – which we believe it is – then a drop in scores is expected.  More rigorous testing standards might depress scores in the short term but should result in more meaningful growth over time, which is a positive step in student assessments.

Unfortunately, there is no statistically rigorous means of comparing DCAS scores with DSTP scores.  Although parents and teachers are being given rough estimates of their students’ DSTP performance level, the DOE maintains that any such analysis in the aggregate would be misleading.  In effect, then, the DCAS would represent a reset in state testing data.  Being able to track performance over three or more years is an important component in determining school performance and school rankings, for determining accountability status and School Improvement Grants and Partnership Zone eligibility.

The complete DCAS data will be released at the State Board of Education meeting.  Check back here tomorrow for more in-depth analysis on the results and the implications for Delaware education policy.  In the meantime, you can read previous posts on the DCAS here, as well as access the complete data release here.

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Dan Hay



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