Markell: Statewide assessments indicate improvement in student outcomes

DOVER — Gov. Jack Markell on Tuesday lauded the level of community engagement in education as one of the most encouraging signs of progress in the state’s pursuit of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) approved in December last year.

“Education has become so politicized over the last several years,” said Gov. Markell. “I think it has just been important that we have a robust group of people who come from a number of different perspectives getting engaged.

“Education conversations can be pretty difficult because adults come in with such different perspectives, but I think ESSA is providing us with a good opportunity to get a lot of people engaged. It’s a bit premature, but I am hopeful about where this goes.”

In a press conference held by the Collaborative for Student Success, its executive director Jim Cowen spoke with Gov. Markell and New Mexico Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera about the collaborative’s recent cumulative analysis of 2016 annual assessment results released by more than 30 states.

Gov. Jack Markell speaking at the new POW-MIA Parkway naming ceremony Monday.

Jack Markell

According to the collaborative, the results are especially important because they represent the first year in which year-over-year results are available under the higher academic standards widely adopted in 2010.

The analysis indicates that after two years of implementation of “higher standards” coupled with “high-quality assessments,” states not only experienced better outcomes, but also calibrated the way they measure proficiency in a way that is more “honest.”

“It’s been six years since states moved en masse to adopt higher K-12 academic standards, and it’s now clear that the standards have made an impact,” said Mr. Cowen. “More than 40 states have maintained high standards, and now that we have multiple years of results with high-quality assessments, we can see that higher standards are leading to improved outcomes.”

The Collaborative included Gov. Markell in the press conference because they believe Delaware has been an exemplar of connecting higher education standards to job growth and economic health.

“Under Gov. Markell’s leadership this state has gone from, as Gallup says, one of the lowest ranking states in terms of job creation in 2008 and 2009 to one of the top ranking in 2013 and 2014,” said Mr. Cowen.

“They also said that Delaware holds the distinction of being the only state along the eastern seaboard to be in the top 10. Gov. Markell has been a tireless force for improving education by adopting higher standards, raising the bar on teacher preparation programs and investing in early childhood education.”

In reference to the second year of Delaware’s state-wide assessments, Gov. Markell touted higher rates of proficiency in nearly every grade and subject across almost every student demographic.

“This means students with disabilities, English language learners, students from low income families and so on,” he said. “We still have a long way to go, but we’re taking steps in the right direction and we have to use this opportunity to commit to continuing that progress.”

He also mentioned co-chairing the Common Core State Standards Initiative six years ago with then Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue. He said that they determined the biggest issue facing students was that too many of them were graduating high school without being prepared adequately to proceed on to a two-year college, university or the work force. He claims this resulted in those students being forced to take remedial college courses for which they had to take on debt but didn’t earn credits toward a degree.

“They have to pay to learn what they should already know,” said Gov. Markell.

Encouraged by the recent assessment results, he said he believe the policy is headed in the right direction in the state and nationally and needs to stay on that course.

“We’ve seen the same trends in other areas too. We have about 1,000 more students passing AP tests than three years ago,” he said. “The number of students passing dual enrollment college-level courses has tripled in the same time frame.

“The key lesson for all of us is that we shouldn’t sell our students short. The trend in our state and across the country is clear — higher standards are translating into meaningful and measurable progress for our students.”

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