For the second year in a row students in the Smyrna School District continued to have better average test scores than the state as a whole on the Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS), according to data released two weeks ago.

Students particularly bested the states average scores when it came to math as seven of the eight grades tested had a higher percentage of proficiency than the state's percentage of proficiency. Four of the eight grades tested in reading did better than the state, too.

Smyrna School District Curriculum Director Dr. Sandy Shalk said administrators are pleased the district is meeting the targets. Moreover, the teachers do a great job of motivating students to perform well on the DCAS test.

"Our fall to spring scores rose and we met our targets," Shalk said. "Meeting accountabilities is tough so in affect they [teachers] take ownership in achieving that part."

While the grade-level scores in the district did slightly drop from 2012 in every grade but 10th, Shalk said the plus/minus level isn't a concern unless a target is missed. For the most part, the drops in the student proficiency percentage were minimal.

Shalk also said the district is pleased with how the scores compare with the state and other school districts in the state.

"We monitor the state average and we like to be above the state average," he said. "We're usually in the top third or the top half [of the school districts] depending on the grade level."

One area where there's been some excellent improvement, Shalk said, is the high school. The 10th grade reading percentage proficiency increased from 65.3 in 2012 to 72.8. The 10th grade math percentage proficiency increased from 65.0 in 2012 to 74.6.

The district's ability to test better than the state was reflected at the schools, especially at Clayton and Sunnyside elementary. Third graders at Clayton Elementary tested in reading at 82.5 percent proficient compared to the state average of 70.6. Fourth graders at Clayton Elementary tested in reading at 88.6 percent proficient compared to the state average of 73.6.

As for students at Sunnyside Elementary, third graders tested in reading at 91.1 percent proficient; fourth graders tested in reading at 91.5 percent proficient. The numbers for Clayton Elementary and Sunnyside Elementary in math are similar.

As for social studies, the district fared better than the state in both grades – fourth and seventh – tested. When it comes to science, eighth graders in the district have a better proficiency percent than the state, but 10th graders and fifth graders are slightly lower than the proficiency percentages of the state.

Shalk believes the district's various programs in the classroom such as Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and Response to Intervention (RTI) have been of great assistance in helping students to perform well on the DCAS. Shalk said PLCs allow teachers to use data to determine the needs of the students while RTI is extremely supportive in helping at-risk students.

"We look to achieve well and strive to continue to get better. I do think PLCs have been a great vehicle," Shalk said. "The accountability targets will continue to rise so we'll continue to monitor students."

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