This is a corrected version of a story that posted June 13.
Student achievement made a “very significant” improvement in Delaware schools this year, officials said during a teleconference town hall Wednesday.
Citing preliminary Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS) test scores, Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy said proficiency rose seven percentage points in both reading and math this spring as compared to Spring 2011. He said that translates to more than 7,000 students who are now considered proficient in the subjects.
In grades 3-10, 68 percent of students measured proficient in reading and 69 percent measured proficient in math.
The window for spring testing closed less than two weeks ago and Murphy said he and his staff would look at the numbers more closely in the coming months to collect as much information as possible from the scores.
Murphy said in order to stay on track with student achievement goals set by Race to the Top planning, officials hoped to see a 3-5 point improvement this year. He called the seven-point rise a “great step in our journey.”
Challenges do remain, however. State officials would like to find ways to boost the scores of ‘students with disabilities.’ Those students showed an increase in proficiency from last spring’s assessment, though fell short of the Department of Education’s goals for that group.
Also, social studies proficiency in grades 4 and 7 only saw a 2-4 percentage point increase since last year. Science only saw a 1-3 percentage point increase across grades 5, 8 and 10. The Department of Education said there needs to be greater increases in those scores.
Delaware was awarded the on of the first Race to the Top grants in the nation in 2010 and is using $119 million in federal funds over four years to jumpstart education reform. The goal of the competitive, voluntary grants is to make students “Career and College Ready” by closing student achievement gaps by 50 percent and getting proficiency test scores close to 100 percent by 2015.
Throughout the implementation of Race to the Top initiatives, teachers and other staff often expressed concern over what they perceive as a lack of consistent communication from the state’s education department. Wednesday’s teleconference was the first of what Gov. Jack Markell (D) said will be regular calls to keep teachers across the state informed of developments in education reform, including common core curriculum standards and teacher evaluations.
In fact, Murphy said the Department of Education has posted answers to common questions surrounding the Delaware Performance Appraisal System on the department’s website. The current plan is to finalize the components of the system that evaluates teacher performance by July 31.
Along with initial DCAS scores, Markell said a survey of teachers participating in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) this year gave very positive feedback on the conferences. Seventy-five percent of teachers who met with peers on a regular basis during the year reported a transparent collaborative culture. Sixty-five percent also said they made more confident decisions in the classrooms as a result of the PLCs, he said. (Read more about PLCs here)
Murphy said those survey results had just arrived and the department would analyze that data as well to see where PLCs were working and where they needed improvement. He said PLC work “translates to student achievement” and “It’s very encouraging to see how PLCs lead to course correction at the PLC level.”
A previous version of this story erroneously indicated that students with disabilities showed no increase in proficiency from last spring’s assessment. Students with disabilities showed improvement, but the rate of improvement was below Department of Education goals. DFM News apologizes for the error.