The second year of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Test shows small gains compared to last year’s scores. Delaware educators say there’s much work to be done.
State Chief Academic Officer Michael Watson, presenting the results this year, was enthusiastic.
“This is something for all of us to celebrate and our teachers and our district leaders deserve the praise,” he said. “But this is not to say any of us are satisfied with the results.”
The Smarter Balanced Assessment Test is a Common Core aligned test for students in grades three to eight. It measures proficiency in math and English. The test replaces the Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System. Unlike the multiple-choice DCAS the Smarter Balanced test challenges students with more comprehensive questions.
Preliminary 2016 results released July 20 show proficiency levels generally increased by two to five percentage points.
In English Language Arts, 55 percent of students were proficient against 52 percent last year. Each grade showed improvement.
All districts logged better ELA scores except Milford School District, which went from 51 percent last year to 50 percent.
For the math test each grade and district showed progress. On the math section 44 percent were proficient against 41 percent in 2015.
“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,” Gov. Jack Markell said in a statement.
The majority of charter schools had improved math test scores. Some did not. Kuumba Academy in Wilmington went from 40 percent proficiency last year to 28 percent, the Family Foundation in New Castle went down from 29 percent to 27 and the Prestige Academy in Wilmington declined from 13 percent to 7 percent.
On the English test, Campus Community School in Dover declined from 62 to 60, Gateway Lab in Wilmington went from 15 to 8, First State Montessori in Wilmington went from 57 to 52, Prestige Academy declined from 18 to 11 and Thomas Edison in Wilmington went from 34 to 31 percent.
Delaware separates test takers into subgroups: all students, Hispanics, African-Americans, whites, low income, students with disabilities, English language learners, Asian Americans and multiracial.
Among the subgroups test results show increased or maintained proficiency on the ELA tests. A handful showed decreased proficiency.
English language learners, students learning English as a second language, showed a 3 percent drop in proficiency among seventh graders. Asian American third graders decreased 1 percent. Both third and fourth grade multiracial students had a 1 percent decline in proficiency and eighth graders declined by 2 percent.
On the math test, overall sixth grade student proficiency declined 4 percent. Eighth grade Hispanics’ proficiency declined by 2 percent; fourth grade multiracial students and sixthe grade English language learners each had a 1 percent decline in proficiency.
“While we know we are not where we want to be as a state looking at this data does provide us with real evidence that students are on the right trajectory in our system,” Watson said.
“We know that there are many students who still aren’t college and career ready in our system,” he said. “The reason our teachers are working 60 and 70 hours a week, the reason principals are working 60 and 70 hours a week is because we want the entire system to improve.”
To improve test results teachers are going to start taking a harder look at test scores to see where improvements can be made, Watson said.
Last year the state compared the results to a 2014 national field test. This is the first year the DOE has prior Smarter Balanced scores to measure progress.
The Smarter Balanced Assessment hasn’t been an easy sale for its supporters.
Last year Rep. John Kowalko tried to introduce House Bill 50, making it easier for parents to opt their children out of the test, but it was vetoed by Markell in July 2015.
In January Kowalko and other supporters of HB 50 attempted to override Markell’s veto. His attempt failed 13 to 26.
How can parents help?
Following the release of last year’s results the state reached out to parents to get their opinion on the test. After meeting with parents, Watson said, the department has developed a better system this year to ensure parents have a better grasp of the results.
“We’re working to communicate better and more effectively in terms of what state wide assessment is and how it can be used and I think it’s important for our parents to know that,” he said.
Parents will receive the results next week. Watson said this year’s Family Score Report will contain more information than the 2015 report.