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DCAS Analysis: Bright Spots in Delaware Schools

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A few weeks ago we shared some initial analysis on our state’s DCAS results, which suggest that while our state has come a long way in recent years, there is still much more work to be done. As we have done in the past, we’re excited to share some of the bright spots we’ve uncovered—schools and students that are showing that demographics do not determine destiny. Based on our initial analysis we have found schools serving a diverse population of students across the K-12 spectrum in each of the three counties that are proving that all students in Delaware have the potential and ability to be successful. Here are some of these highlights:

  • Georgetown, an elementary school in Indian River serves a population that has one of the highest proportions of low income students in the state (84%). Its math proficiency was 84%, which is not only significantly above the state average of 70%, it also represents a whopping 7.5 percentage point increase from the previous year.
  • Academy of Dover, a charter elementary school in Kent County, serves a student population that is 90% low income and 88% minority, proportions among the highest in the state. Continuing its growth from last year, the school now meets or exceeds the state average in student proficiency in both subjects.
  • Stanton, a middle school in Red Clay, was named a Priority (formerly Partnership Zone) school last year, a designation meaning it was one of the lowest performing schools in the state. Serving a population that is 86% low income and 75% minority, it had one of the highest increases in student proficiency in ELA in the state, jumping almost 11 percentage points. While work remains to be done (overall ELA proficiency was 63%), such a significant increase deserves to be celebrated especially in a year when changes in student performance was largely flat across the state.
  • Seaford Senior, a high school in Seaford, serves a population that is 77% low income. In addition to a 9 percentage point growth in overall ELA student proficiency (one of the highest in the state), 42% of its 10th graders scored at an “Advanced” level on the ELA test, increasing a whopping 23 percentage points from last year. The proportions of students proficient and advanced still trail the state average, but if Seaford continues this trajectory, this won’t be the case for long.

It’s important to note that these are just a small handful of the many bright spots we are seeing. All across the state there are plenty more examples of schools that are doing great things for their kids, schools such as Howard High (a school we mentioned last year) or Lake Forest North and South Elementary schools that serve high proportions of low income students and who also demonstrate high levels of achievement and/or growth.

As students, teachers, and families across the state get ready for a brand new school year, it will be important for administrators and leaders to take a look at these schools to see what they can learn. In a small state such as ours, collaboration and innovation are easier to accomplish than in others and both of these will be critical to achieving the lofty targets our state has set for itself. In the meantime, we’ll keep looking at the data to see what other interesting stories we might uncover.

Do you know of another school that deserves to be mentioned? Share about it in the comments below!

DCAS Results: On Track, But More to Do

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Last year, our DCAS results showed our students making historic and dramatic gains in proficiency. This year, our DCAS results show that Delaware still has more work to do.
Presented earlier today at the monthly State Board of Education meeting, the preliminary results show that 72% of our students are proficient in reading and 70% are in math. Overall this represents a slight decrease from the previous year, when 73% of students were proficient in both subjects.

As a whole, the results present a mixed picture. On the one hand, the data shows that we have largely sustained the growth we have made in recent years, with some indicators suggesting we’re continuing to make progress in certain areas. On the other hand, it is clear that there is much more work to be done. According to our ESEA waiver, our target is 82% proficiency in both reading and math by 2017. We met our interim statewide targets for 2012-13 for all subgroups except English Language Learners and Students with disabilities, but we need to go back to seeing gains next year and the years following if we are going to meet these goals.

While the overall results were not as positive as many had hoped, there are some bright spots worth noting:

  • In reading, the proportion of students scoring at an “advanced” level (the highest on the assessment’s 4-point scale) increased two percentage points.
  • In both reading and math, the proportion of students meeting their growth targets (a measure that represents a year’s worth of learning) increased slightly.
  • Of the ten Partnership Zone (PZ) schools (schools designated as the lowest performing in the state), eight have made gains in reading and six in math since implementing turnaround strategies. Several of these gains have been in the double digits, suggesting that for the majority of these schools, the reforms have had a significant impact.

At the presentation, state officials said they planned to delve deeper into the data in coming months, working with superintendents and school leaders to unearth and address the challenges facing our students. In the meantime, we will do our own analysis of the data so be sure to check back in the coming weeks to catch any additional insights we uncover.

Graduation Rate Jumps But Still Trails Nation

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Delaware’s graduation rate jumped up to 73.9%* for the class of 2010 according to EdWeek’s yearly Diplomas Count report, an increase of six percentage points from the 67.9% reported for the class of 2009. This is certainly good news, but we should be cautious of celebrating too soon.

While this improvement represents the largest we have seen in the past decade, our graduation rate still trails the national average of 74.7%, putting us at #31 in the nation, behind the neighboring states of Maryland (78.6%), Pennsylvania (83.0%), and New Jersey (83.1%).

The national report is cautiously optimistic, celebrating the fact that almost three quarters of our nation’s students graduate while lamenting the roughly one million a year who leave high school without a diploma. EdWeek reporters found that most efforts in the past have focused on preventing students from dropping out as opposed to “recovering” dropouts, although there are signs that the recent economic downtown has helped to spur new efforts by states, districts, and nonprofits to address the needs of these students.

In Delaware, recent efforts have focused on both sides of the spectrum. Initiatives at the state level such as statewide SAT testing and improved data systems and student tracking show signs of promise, while localized efforts such as expansion of dual enrollment and new charter high schools targeting high-risk populations may help continue the state’s upward trajectory. Meanwhile districts have taken advantage of advancements in personalized learning technologies and the availability of MOOCs (online courses) to expand their credit recovery programs. More data will need to be gathered to determine how effective these efforts are.

One initiative in particular may help state and local leaders gain a better insight into how to improve our students’ college readiness. Next week the Harvard Strategic Data Project will release its College Going Diagnostic which aims to provide a more detailed look into how prepared our students are for college. Be sure to check back on our blog for more details when the report is available.

 

*The report uses the Cumulative Promotion Index to calculate graduate rates, a methodology that is different from the one used by the Delaware Department of Education, which uses the federally mandated ESEA adjusted formula. More info can be found here.

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