Delaware Does Better Than Expected On Smarter Balanced But Much Worse Than DCAS, Opt-Out Rates by District

“Depending on the grade level and subject, students scored between 16 and 45 percentage points lower on the Smarter Balanced than they did on its predecessor, DCAS.”

The above quote by Avi Wolfman-Arent with his article on the Smarter Balanced results for WHYY/Newsworks tells the main story.  The results are in and the numbers are interesting.  Statewide, the proficiency rate was 51.9% for ELA and 38.8% for Math. The highest rated district was Cape Henlopen with an overall proficiency of 57.2% and the lowest was Laurel with 26.3%

Statewide, the opt-out numbers didn’t go below the 95% threshold with the exception of 11th grade English and Math, with 90.5% and 89.3%.  But certain districts did, with Christina at 91.8% in Math and 91.3% in ELA, Gateway Lab School at 94.6% in Math, the recent closed Moyer Academy had 85.9% in English and 87% in Math, another closed charter called Reach Academy for Girls had 89.3% for ELA and 91.3% for Math, and finally, Poly-tech had 94.0% and 92.3% for Math.  For the state, the overall participation rate in ELA was 96.7% and 95.8% for Math.

What hasn’t been announced yet is the  sub-groups, like students with disabilities, African-Americans, Hispanic, low-income, and so forth.  Those are the numbers I really wanted to see, aside from the opt-outs.  By looking at the below chart, found on the Delaware DOE website, it’s obvious schools with higher populations of these “sub-groups” performed worse than the more affluent schools.  And of course, the “Charter Trio” of Charter School of Wilmington, Newark Charter School and Sussex Academy did the best.  Cherry-picking has its advantages.

Even Eastside Charter School, praised by Governor Markell for their growth rates on DCAS, took a beating on this test.  As did many of the other charters in Wilmington.  The two charters with high populations of special needs students didn’t fare so well either.  I don’t blame any of these schools, I blame the DOE and American Institutes for Research, the creator of the assessment and the DOE’s vendor and distributor.  But the blame game by the DOE and Markell is already beginning, as seen in Governor Markell’s obligatory press release.  Even Secretary of Education Mark Murphy who still seems to be hovering around, said to Matthew Albright in the News Journal coverage:

Murphy said the goal is for parents to use those results to have more informed conversations with their teachers.  If a student scored a one or a two, parents should seek extra help for their kids in the subjects they’re struggling with, for example.

“It’s not like all the answers lie in the Department of Education,” Markell said.  “Many of the best are in the districts.  And, in the end, they have responsibility for their own schools.”

As the accountability gun is pointed at their heads…Sorry Jack and Mark, the test was forced on students by the Delaware DOE and the US DOE.  But the DOE will not take any blame for this test whatsoever.  Instead, they want to point fingers:

 As a governing state in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, Delaware partnered with other states to develop the Smarter Balanced Assessment System. Delaware educators have been integral to many aspects of the new assessment system, including question development, standard setting, report development and the creation of professional learning resources for teachers. In spring 2014, educators and students across Delaware participated in the successful national field test of new assessment items and the accompanying technology.

Now we will see the schools and districts rushing to get all those kids “college and career ready” so they can get the very high growth portion on the upcoming Delaware School Success Framework, otherwise known as the school report card.  But what they may not be counting on is the anger about half the parents in this state will feel that their kids weren’t proficient on this test.  All that time and energy, designed for one test, and their kid is just not good enough.  But don’t despair parents.  Your kid should not be measured based on one test.  You do have a choice: REFUSE THE TEST!