Scores up in Delaware statewide testing

DOVER –– In a Delaware Department of Education report released Thursday, results of the 2016 Smarter Assessment and DCAS (Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System) were compared to 2015 and almost every district showed improvement across the board.

“The hard work that our administrators and students have been doing is really paying off” said Michael Watson, chief academic officer at the Delaware Department of Education.

Students in grades three through eight take the Smarter Assessment in English Language Arts (ELA) and math annually.

The test, adopted statewide in 2015, measures students’ mastery of the Common Core Standards for each subject and is considered to be a more comprehensive measure than previous standardized testing.

“Smarter sets a much higher bar and it gives us a much better measure of if students are on track for college and career readiness and that makes it all the more encouraging to see the improvements,” Mr. Watson said.

The Smarter test evaluates more skills than have ever been tested before and utilizes essay responses more than multiple choice so students can better demonstrate their reasoning and understanding.

Proficiency levels increase

From 2015 to 2016, Delaware saw its public school students increase ELA proficiency from 52 percent to 55 percent –– an increase of 2,169 students. The increase isn’t due to a few districts outperforming the field while others lag behind. Every single district either met the 2015 scores or saw an improvement of at least two percentage points –– even those that were already exceeding national standards in 2015.

The largest gain was 13 points in the Woodbridge district, which had 36 percent proficiency in ELA in 2015 and 49 percent in 2016.

The results for charter schools were more mixed, with only 11 of 16 maintaining or increasing their scores since 2015.

A demographic breakdown of all tested students shows that all groups are moving up in proficiency and the number of students performing at the lowest levels decreased and the number of students performing at the top levels increased across the board.

The exact same trend extended into the mathematics portion of the Smarter Assessment where again all public school districts maintained or increased proficiency rates from 2015.

Woodbridge again had the largest gain, increasing math proficiency from 31 percent in 2015 to 44 percent in 2016.

Laurel and Seaford also saw significant gains, making western Sussex County the most improved region in the state in both ELA and math.

Like ELA, charter schools lagged behind with only nine of 16 maintaining or improving their scores.

All Smarter Assessment scores are very representative of Delaware’s third- through eighth-graders because statewide participation rates were over 97 percent for ELA and math.

DCAS results

DCAS results were also presented in Thursday’s report and for the most part, scores remained around the same level as previous years but as DCAS social studies is only taken by grades four and seven, and science is only taken by grades five, eight and 10, the progress does not track the same group of students.

Between 2012 and 2016, students fluctuated between 59 and 69 percent proficiency for fourth-grade social studies and 60 and 57 percent proficiency for seventh-grade social studies.

During the same time frame for fifth-grade science, scores varied between 47 and 52 percent, 49 and 51 percent for eighth-grade science and 42 to 46 percent for 10th-grade science.

“We are aware that these numbers aren’t showing a consistent increase in proficiency across all grades,” Mr. Watson said.

He added that changes have been made to the test over the past year to make DCAS more representative of all students and the new test will be implemented in the 2017-2018 school year.

Results for DCAS-Alt1 –– the test administered to the students with the most significant cognitive disabilities –– were released for the areas of reading and math. The report shows scores from 2013 to 2016 and the proficiency levels show slightly more variance than DCAS.

Mr. Watson attributed the greater variance to the number of students taking DCAS-Alt1. The number of students is much smaller, giving the report a small sample size.

“We are pleased to see the academic progress that students in Delaware are making. Delaware was one of the first states to receive a Race to the Top grant award, and has remained committed to maintaining high academic standards, better supporting teachers and leaders, and improving outcomes in struggling schools,” said Department of Education Press Secretary Dorie Nolt. “We hope that state and local leaders will continue these efforts and build on this progress in years to come.”

Next week, the Department of Education will mail out Family Score Reports –– the student’s test scores for each standardized test including a Family Guide.

The Family Guide offers suggestions and offers ways the student can be helped based off how they scored on the Smarter Assessment.

The Guide also includes what the student should have learned and mastered during the 2015-2016 school year and what they can expect to learn in the upcoming school year.

For more information about the state assessments, visit doe.k12.de.us.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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