Opt Outs Rise in Delaware for 2015-2016 School Year!

The Delaware Department of Education released preliminary scores for the Smarter Balanced Assessment administered this past spring in public schools.  Below is the official press release from the DOE.  In comparing students in their grades last year and the grade they are in this year, it looks like opt out actually increased for most grades, from 5th to 8th graders in Math and 6th to 8th graders in English/Language Arts.  The opt out numbers are a bit misleading if you compare them to last year.  In the 2014-2015 school year, high school juniors took SBAC.  776 of those juniors were opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  In comparing the 3rd to 8th grade levels from last year to this year, we actually see an increase in opt out.  Last year, 1,269 students in 3rd to 8th were opted out whereas this year that number increased to 1,375.  So as predicted, opt out did go up this year!

Here is the official numbers and kudos from the DOE:

2016 state test results show progress across the board in English language arts, mathematics

Delaware students across the board are performing better in mathematics and English language arts, according to preliminary 2016 state test results for grades 3 to 8 released today. The gains are in almost every grade and subject and across almost every student demographic, including students with disabilities, English learners, students from low-income families and those of most racial and ethnic subgroups. Students reaching proficiency levels increased by 2 to 5 percentage points in nearly all grade levels in both subjects.

 

“We are pleased with the progress and look forward to continuing gains,” Governor Jack Markell said. “This progress reflects hard work by children and educators to meet higher standards as we aim to ensure every student is prepared for success in the next grade and, ultimately, after graduation. We know a lot more must be done to reach our goal and that means reaffirming our commitment to giving all students, and their teachers, the support they need to reach their potential.”

 

This is the second year Delaware administered the Smarter Assessment. Statewide, nearly 55 percent of students in third through eighth grades were proficient or better in English language arts this year compared to 52 percent in 2015 for the same grades. In math, almost 44 percent scored at the proficient level or higher, up from 41 percent in 2015.

 

“What is most exciting about this year’s results is the strong progress made by students across the board, including those from groups that traditionally have performed at lower levels than their peers,” Secretary of Education Steve Godowsky said.

 

State assessments measure students’ progress toward the academic goals laid out in Delaware’s Common Core academic standards, which are designed to ensure students have the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in jobs and college. The standards, which were established by a diverse group of educators and others in the education community through a national initiative Markell co-chaired, set learning expectations for what students should know or what skills they should master at the completion of each grade level. Individual districts or charter schools determine their own curricula and decide how those skills and knowledge are best taught.

 

The state assessments ask students to demonstrate and apply their knowledge and skills in areas such as critical thinking, analytical writing, and problem solving. By focusing on skills most important for students to succeed in college and the workplace, the results provide teachers and families with a snapshot of children’s progress, helping to identify school and student strengths and determine subject areas in which students need support.

 

While no single test can provide a complete picture of achievement, annual assessments give families and educators important information about student progress and areas for improvement, especially when combined with student grades and teacher reports.

 

This year, Delaware educators are able to access deeper-level Smarter score information than last year through the state’s Smarter Analytics system. Using Smarter Analytics, teachers have the ability to determine each student’s understanding of specific items taught in English and math classes, which helps them better serve individual student needs.

Scores for multiple other standards-based assessments, including SAT and in-class assessments, are available in Smarter Analytics as well, providing a more-comprehensive look at student assessment scores and demonstrating the importance of an entire assessment system over any one test to help guide instruction.

Preliminary state and district/charter-level results were released today. Final results, including school-level, will be released in August.

 

Families will receive enhanced family score reports for their children in the mail beginning next week. The redesigned reports include detailed information about how students scored on different parts of each subject test and also show how students are progressing through the standards and across grades. Also new this year, families are receiving guides in advance of the score reports that outline how to support student learning at home. The guides include resources for understanding what students should learn at each grade level based on the academic standards. For each grade, families are given lists of what students should have learned last year and what students should be able to do this year and corresponding ways to support student learning at home.

Smarter ELA
Smarter math

On the Smarter Assessment, students earn an overall score on a four-point scale with at least a three required to be considered proficient.

Statewide change in percent proficient for 2015-16 for ELA by subgroup

table1

Statewide change in percent proficient for 2015-16 for mathematics by subgroup

table2

Almost every school district saw gains in English language arts and mathematics, with the greatest gains made in Woodbridge, Seaford and Laurel, respectively.

district ELA

district math

Woodbridge Superintendent Heath Chasanov, whose district saw 13-percentage point increases in both English language arts and math, credited his staff for their dedication and hard work.

 

“We are extremely excited about the growth that we have obtained across the district on this year’s assessment. It’s a testament to a group of educators that believe in the abilities of all children and are dedicated to their success,” he said. “We are proud of how hard our students have worked and continue to be excited for their future success.”

 

In Seaford, the average proficiency was up 11 percentage points in both subjects.

 

“These types of gains become possible through the combined efforts of our school board, administration, staff, students, parents and school community. Our district has been on a course to have all of our stakeholders internalize the expectation that all students will be successful,” Superintendent David Perrington said. “While we are appreciative with these gains, we also recognize this is not an end point, but a measure of the dynamic process that is necessary to provide our students with the greatest opportunity to be successful.”

 

Laurel also saw great gains: 9 percentage points in mathematics and 8 in English language arts.

 

Superintendent Shawn Larrimore said Laurel refocused last August with a mission of “People. Practices. Performance.” for the district and “Rigor. Relevance. Relationships.” as the instructional mission for the schools.

 

“We knew we’d have to work very hard this year, but we’d also have to have a laser-like focus on the initiatives that would make the biggest impact – and not waver from them – if we were going to have a shot at increasing student achievement across our district,” Larrimore said. “We started on Day 1. Our teachers and our administrators came together for our first week back to school … and outlined where we were as a district and where we wanted to go.

 

“Mission statements alone don’t cut it, but they must serve as a lens through which you gauge every decision for your district and for your school,” he said.

 

Several districts, including Appoquinimink and Caesar Rodney, that already were above the state average also saw strong gains.

 

 

SAT

 

The Delaware Department of Education today also released preliminary statewide results for the state administration of the SAT in 11th grade: 53 percent proficient or above in English language arts and 31 percent or above in mathematics. Since 2011, Delaware has provided the SAT to all public high school juniors during the school day. This year marked the first time the SAT also served as the state’s high school accountability test, replacing the Smarter Assessment used for this purpose last year. This spring also saw a redesigned SAT from the College Board. Because this year’s redesigned SAT is different than previous years’ and on a different score scale, a comparison with 2015 scores is not provided.

 

The statewide results presented today are preliminary and based on proposed cut scores that must be approved by the State Board of Education. That decision is expected to come at the board’s August meeting. District- and school-level results also will be released at that time.

 

 

Other assessment results

 

Today’s release also included the preliminary Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS) assessment results for science and social studies as well as the DCAS-Alt1 test for students with severe cognitive disabilities in all subjects.

 

For science, DCAS measures the progress of students in grades 5, 8, and 10. In social studies, DCAS measures grades 4 and 7. This year’s DCAS assessment results are consistent with last year across all grade levels for which the assessment is administered.

 

Percent Proficient on DCAS Science

science

Percent Proficient on DCAS Social Studies

ss

The DCAS-Alt1 is an assessment designed to measure what students with the most significant cognitive disabilities know and are able to do in reading and mathematics in grades 3 through 11; science in grades 5, 8, and 10; and social studies in grades 4, 7, and 9.

Percent Proficient on DCAS-Alt1
alt

Find more results here. For more information about the state’s standards and assessments, families should visit www.DelExcels.org.

Alison May
alison.may@doe.k12.de.us
(302) 735-4006

Rodel Starts The Blame-Game Against Teachers While Praising Smarter Balanced Results

Yes, I do regularly read the Rodel blog on their website, but I never commented on one until I saw their post from Friday called 5 Data Takeaways From Smarter Balanced Test Scores, written by Rodel employee Liz Hoyt.  I’m always curious what the “opposition” writes about things like this.  I have been very vocal in my thoughts on the Rodel Foundation of Delaware.  They are a non-profit whose CEO happens to make over a quarter of a million dollars a year.  I do not believe they have students best interests at heart.  This article drove that point home for me with very clear and concise words.  I will go through the areas that bothered me the most.

“Aligned to the Common Core state standards, the new state assessment was designed to ensure students have the skills and knowledge they need in jobs and college.”

I think this has always been my biggest problem with the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Please tell me how a 3rd grader taking this test is going to be in any way prepared for college based on how they answer questions on a test?  Even if they put them at a 5th grade level, there is no test in the world that can prepare any student at a young age for a career or post-secondary education.  The education reformers need to pick a side and stick with it: is the test meant to create data to see where students compare with each other or is it to prep them for a world they can’t even fathom until they are 15 or 16?  They can’t have it both ways.  Furthermore,.wasn’t the whole point of Common Core that a student in Alaska would get the same information and be assessed on the same information as a student in Louisiana?  Instead, we have 18 states taking Smarter Balanced, 11 or so taking the PARCC, and the rest developing their own state assessments.  It isn’t very common when states aren’t taking the “common” test.  Funny how life works out…

“While this year’s scores are lower than last year’s DCAS results, Delaware students outperformed estimates (based on the 2014 national field test) in both subjects for every grade with the exception of 11th grade math.”

Why does the DOE and Governor Markell keep trying to pump up the fact that students did better than expected?  Isn’t that the whole point of a field test, to find out what the kinks are and what problems might come up and strive to fix those issues?  How many rockets did Russia blow up before Sputnik launched? If students did worse than the field test, it would prove unequivocally that this was a bad test.  But since students did better than the field test, we are acting like this is the best test Delaware ever created (which Governor Markell did say at a speech for New America earlier in the Summer).  And this is my major issue with this statement.  We have nothing to measure this test by, and even the Feds wouldn’t allow states to compare any test scores to field tests for this very reason with their accountability frameworks.  It’s not often I agree with the US DOE, but anyone can see the fallacy in comparing a field test to the actual test.

Scores dropped as Delaware set a new baseline for student proficiency.”

Once again, how can scores drop when you are comparing apples to oranges?  This test didn’t set a baseline for student proficiency, it set a baseline for Smarter Balanced proficiency based on whatever arbitrary number the Delaware Department of Education set it at.  So what happens if by chance some miracle happens, and every student scores proficient on the test next year.  Would the DOE allow that?  They had a meltdown when the vast majority of teachers were rated as “effective”.  What happens to the baseline then?  I firmly believe they would change it because if everyone is proficient, the test is useless and has outlived it’s purpose.  On the flip side, if everyone scores at a non-proficient level, we can’t have that either, because that shows 1) the test is bad and 2) we need to make all our schools a priority and fire all the teachers.  So the baseline will ALWAYS be set somewhere so that anywhere from 30-70% of  students are proficient.  But that really doesn’t tell us what students need.  It tells us the DOE will do whatever they have to for certain results.

“Despite concerns about the opt-out movement’s potential impact on assessment, student participation remained strong.”

Concerns? How many times does Dr. Paul Herdman speak in public at Legislative Hall about pending legislation for education? He said it was the first time he ever came to an education committee meeting and gave public comment.  It wasn’t a concern for Rodel. It was a five-alarm fire!  I’ve said all along I expected opt-outs to be small the first year.  I also said once parents receive the scores, it will be another story in the second year of Smarter Balanced.  One only needs to look at New York and New Jersey to see the difference between the first and second year opt-out rates to gage how Delaware will be with this in the Spring of 2016.  This is a wake-up call for parents, and they will show how much they support this test with higher opt-out rates in six months.

“Scores varied widely across districts and schools, highlighting the hard work of educators implementing the Common Core State Standards and schools that may need additional support.”

Scores varied widely among low-income schools and higher income schools.  They varied between charters and magnet schools with selective enrollment preferences and those without.  They varied between the haves and the have-nots.  Are you telling us then that schools with low-income just happen to have teachers who aren’t good at “implementing the Common Core State Standards”?  Because that’s the way I’m reading this.  Are you saying that EastSide Charter School, who was publicly praised by Governor Markell for their incredible growth on DCAS has teachers that now are not implementing Common Core the right way?  Or is it because EastSide performed about the same as other schools with comparable low-income populations?  Don’t answer.  We already know.

“…learn more about the Smarter Assessment and the Common Core State Standards at DelExcels.org.”

Since we know Rodel provides invaluable help to Donna Johnson, the State Board of Education and Delaware DOE in getting resource material on the DelExcels website for parents, and Rodel is a non-profit, did Rodel get paid with tax-payer money to help get the material on the DelExcels website?  And how much of that money gets invested into one of the hedge funds Rodel invests in?  Can you please answer those questions?

Delaware PTA Issues Statement On Smarter Balanced Assessment Results

The Delaware PTA just unveiled a press release to their members on their views of the recently announced Smarter Balanced Assessment results.  These are questions everyone in this state should be asking, especially our legislators.  They voted this into state code, and as far as I’m concerned, they can vote it right out!

DELAWARE PTA

9/8/2015

 

Correct The Blogger Challenge: “EastSide Charter’s Proficiency Gains Have Nothing To Do With Attrition”

In the first “Correct The Blogger Challenge” email I received, an anonymous individual under the pseudonym “Education Opinions” wrote to me about my article on EastSide Charter School from last week.  They wrote:

This is in response to your  3/10 post “The Recipe Behind the ‘Pixie Dust’ at Eastside Charter: Very High Attrition Rates, Part 1.” I want to start by saying that I don’t work at Eastside, I’m not on their board, I don’t have any kids at the school, I don’t work for the DOE, and I am not related to anyone who meets any of those qualifications either. I am just a community member concerned about the way data (for both traditional and charter schools) is sometimes utilized to make points that might not be completely accurate.

In your post, you state,
Governor Jack Markell gave the keynote speech, and left immediately afterwards for another engagement.  He spoke about Eastside Charter School’s great job with closing proficiency gaps, and stated “they have gone from only having 15% of their 5th graders scoring proficient in reading to 66% in just three years.”  If only this were true…”. You then go on to post the number of students in each K-6 grade from the year 2009 until the current year, citing high attrition as a reason why this proficiency statistic can’t be true. 
Continue reading

The Recipe Behind the “Pixie Dust” at Eastside Charter: Very High Attrition Rates, Part 1

The magic of East Side Charter School is not magic, but merely a carefully crafted bit of smoke and mirrors.  It’s an illusion, not what the citizens of Delaware think it is, but the oldest trick in the book.

Last night at the Imagination Delaware forum, held at the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington, Delaware, a crowd of over 700 people listened to a panel on not only Wilmington’s education, but all of Delaware.  The forum turned into a debate about charter and traditional schools in the state with the two main members of the panel.  Mike Matthews, the President of the Red Clay Educators Association and a special education teacher at Warner Elementary School on the side of the traditional schools and Dr. Lamont Browne, the head of school of both Eastside Charter School and Family Foundations Academy.

Governor Jack Markell gave the keynote speech, and left immediately afterwards for another engagement.  He spoke about Eastside Charter School’s great job with closing proficiency gaps, and stated “they have gone from only having 15% of their 5th graders scoring proficient in reading to 66% in just three years.”  If only this were true…

I will definitely say Eastside Charter does not perform in “cherry-picking” their students.  They seem to enroll anyone who applies.  I have never heard of a lottery for this school.  They have a very high population of minorities and their special education populations are in line with the traditional school districts around them.  So what is the issue?  Continue reading

East Side Charter & NYC Success Academy Benefit Immensely From Attrition & Proficiency Scores

On Diane Ravitch’s blog, she wrote an article today based on an editorial in the Wall Street Journal about the attrition rate at the Success Academy in Harlem.  The editorial, by Michael Mulgrew, the President of the United Federation of Teachers in NYC, pointed out Success Academy 13 in Harlem has very high attrition rates and high-needs children frequently leave the school.  This puts the school at an advantage in terms of proficiency scores on standardized testing.

Two months ago, Nelia Dolan pointed out that in one year, East Side Charter in Wilmington had 62 children in one grade, and their scores were lower on DCAS.  The scores dramatically improved the next two years, however that same group of kids was reduced to 29.  This illusion of improvement plays out constantly in Delaware and across America.  Success is only as great as the true story, and the story by Mulgrew gives some startling facts:

“While Ms. Moskowitz cites a recent report from the city’s Independent Budget Office about student attrition in charters, she neglects to mention an earlier IBO report that found that it is the less successful students who tend to leave New York City charters. And as Princess Lyles and Dan Clark note “Keeping Precious Charter-School Seats Filled,” op-ed, Feb. 3), failure to fill these seats allows a school to maintain “the illusion of success,” as the percentage of proficient students rises.”

As Governor Markell continues to compare the six priority schools in Wilmington to East Side Charter and Booker T. Washington Elementary School in Dover, he forgets these types of facts.  Booker T., I recently found out, also holds the district’s gifted and talented program for elementary schools in the district.

To read the full story on Mulgrew’s editorial response to Success Academy’s Eva Moscowitz, please go here: http://dianeravitch.net/2015/02/13/mulgrew-disagrees-with-eva-about-charter-cherry-picking/

Say, didn’t one of Delaware’s biggest charter supporter also write an editorial about the myth of cherry-picking in Delaware charter schools?  I seem to recall that….