Delaware education officials’ final report on 2012 student standardized testing results released Thursday shows considerable growth in student reading and math proficiency. The complete summary of 2012 Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS) test results reaffirms officials’ assessment of student progress following the release of preliminary results last month. Officials are also encouraged the test scores indicate that many new school reforms are already proving effective.
(To view complete results of student testing, including district and school level scores – click here.)
“There is a reaction to these numbers that is positive and that is exciting,” said Mark Murphy, Secretary of Education for Delaware. “There is no surprise (in this month’s analysis).”
In grades 3-10, 73 percent of students measured proficient in reading, a 12-percentage point jump from 2011 scores. The percentage leads to 10,054 more students being proficient in reading as compared to last year.
In math, 72 percent of students in grades 3-10 measured proficient, 10 percent more than last year, which translates to 9,084 additional Delaware students performing at adequate levels in math during DCAS testing.
These final numbers represent a 5 percent increase in statewide reading proficiency and 3 percent improvement in math proficiency compared to the initial results released in June.
This latest set of student test data differs from the initial June report in the way state officials considered a fourth optional test offered in the spring. The June data used scores on the last test each student took (third or optional fourth), regardless of which one was better. In the latest statistics, the optional fourth test was only factored into proficiency statistics if the student improved as compared to the third test. If there was no improvement, the score was discarded in favor of the higher third test score, in accordance with approved state and federal methodology guidelines, Murphy said.
State officials said using the last test score provided a more accurate way of comparing growth to 2011, when students were not offered the chance to take a second spring test. Murphy added officials released the preliminary numbers last month using the final test taken by students in order to be transparent in exactly how much progress schools made in the first year of RTTT reforms and the second year of DCAS testing.
Dr. Michael Stetter, DDOE Director of Accountability Resources
DDOE Director of Accountability Resources Dr. Michael Stetter offers analysis of the 2012 student standardized test results.
“We were surprised at the large numbers of students who took advantage of this optional fourth opportunity,” said Mike Stetter, director of accountability resources for the Delaware State Department of Education, but he added that he didn’t think adding a fourth test across the board for all students is necessarily the way to go. “It bears some balance on the part of the local districts and schools because it does take away from instructional time.”
“I think it is most useful for the youngster who is at risk, who is perhaps struggling behind classmates and the school wants to do something unique for that youngster.” added Stetter. He said schools can choose to intervene and review skills the student struggles with and the final testing opportunity can serve to track improvement results from targeted tutoring.
The results go above and beyond the hopes department officials had for this year’s progress. Murphy said in June they were hoping for a 3-5 point improvement in 2012 compared to the year before to stay on track for Race to the Top long-term goals.
Delaware was awarded the one of the first two Race to the Top grants in the nation in 2010 and is using $119 million in federal funds over the next 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.
Partnership Zone schools saw some of the greatest improvements. The PZ program is a three-year public-private partnership funded by RTTT grants to turn around low-performing schools. The first four designated schools, Howard High School, Glasgow High School, Stubbs Elementary and Positive Outcomes Charter School, were in the state’s bottom 5 percent for performance, mostly in standardized test scores, and submitted plans to the Delaware Department of Education for major reforms to transfer their buildings. Plans included changes in leadership, staff, academic programs and more.
Increases in proficiency varied from 2 to 13 percent across the schools and subjects, though by and large, the schools are still lagging behind others in the state.
“We were just very heartened and we hope the families at those schools are equally heartened by the gains they’ve made,” Stetter said. “It’s the payoff for some hard work and tough decisions that were made… They have reason to celebrate.”
However, one school, Howard, outperformed non-PZ schools, showing a three-percent higher proficiency in math compared to other high schools in the state and a six-percent lead in reading proficiency over other high schools.
Stetter said he thinks Howard’s results show, “If you go through some fairly severe reflection… it’s possible to come through that, not only unscathed, but somewhat the better for it.”
Achievement gaps in Delaware between minority and low-income students and their peers also narrowed by 3-4 percentage points in reading and 3 points in math. Stetter said there is still serious work to be done, but overall he is pleased with the results in this area.
“This is not where the top performers are declining and the others are catching up,” he said. “All of the students are improving.”
Challenges remain, however, for students with disabilities where the achievement gap increased by a couple of points.
“I would call that gap discouraging,” Murphy said. “It’s something that we’re all working on.”
Murphy added that while the state overall is seeing students with disabilities struggle, there are districts and individual schools that are seeing improvements and the next step is to identify successful programs and share that success across the state.
“We’re seeing some districts doing some really great work. Some schools are taking a fresh look at how they are meeting needs.” Some schools are changing staffing models, they way students with disabilities are grouped and adjustment the educational environment to be both rigorous and supportive, he said.
He said he hopes once successful programs are pinpointed that schools will collaborate and share those new ideas.
Science and Social Studies scores increased only slightly, if at all, and will need continued work in the future.
Murphy said the department learned in field interviews with school district officials that a lot of focus was put on math and reading performance in the 2011-2012 academic year and it is expected that Science and Social Studies scores will improve next year when more attention is given to the subject matter.
Next month DDOE will release the Adequate Yearly Progress list of schools, after the scores are further refined, in addition to studying students’ grade-to-grade progress in learning more advanced concepts throughout their school careers.