Student Performance Data: “Reset” Presents Opportunity

July 22nd, 2011

Category: Policy and Practice

The Delaware Department of Education released the 2010-2011 DCAS scores yesterday, and, as expected, the percent of students demonstrating proficiency decreased. The State Board approved the higher standards set last year, which provide all stakeholders a more accurate snapshot of how our students compare to their national and international peers. 

It is, practically, a “reset” for the state: comparisons between DSTP and DCAS are not reliable, according to DDOE, so we cannot compare how Delaware schools or student groups did this year compared to previous years. However, the results reveal:

  • Delaware students performed in the 50th-71st percentile, nationally, according to a nationally benchmarked exam (Terra Nova).
  • The achievement gap between white and black students increased in ELA but decreased in math.  In 2010, the gap between white and black students in ELA was 20.58%; that gap increased to 26.63% in 2011.  In math, the gap narrowed from 25.67% in 2010 to 22.99% in 2011.
  • Average fall-to-spring growth in earlier grades was much higher than growth in high school, which was not the case in previous years.  DDOE speculated that this was because older students were better prepared and had less to learn, but alternative explanations abound, and this result merits further review.

Upon initial review, a few schools’ performance stands out:

  • Kuumba Academy’s students showed extraordinary growth in reading, with average scores 30 points above the state average in 3rd grade and 20 points above the state average in 5th grade.
  • Moyer Academy, for which the state went to great lengths to keep open after recommended closure, did not have enough students to produce reliable results. And where they did post scores, they were lower than the state’s average by quite a bit.  This poses a serious challenge for the Wilmington charter school – will the school have enough students to remain open and is the school effectively serving those students it does have?
  • At Eisenberg Elementary School in the Colonial School District, which has a student population that is 91% low income, 84% of students in grades 2-5 tested proficient in reading and 80% were proficient in math.  The school ranked #11 statewide in reading and #4 statewide in math.

A number of Race to the Top initiatives are designed to support improving student achievement to reach our state’s and nation’s goals around international competitiveness.  These include professional development and access to high-quality curriculum and assessment materials, to ensure that educators understand and can implement internationally benchmarked standards in their classrooms. The state also will roll-out the statewide teacher evaluation system to identify strengths and weaknesses, and provide tailored support to help improve their practice.

These scores demonstrate what we have known for years, which is that the work we are doing is of critical importance to ensuring our students are prepared to successfully compete in the evolving 21st century economy.  We hope this is a “reset” not just of our scores, but of our approach, and a renewing of our commitment to Delaware students.

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Brett Turner



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