Assessment, Math Standards and Three-Tiered Diploma Issues Addressed
Dover, Del. February 16, 2005Secretary of Education Valerie A. Woodruff today released a summary report containing findings and recommendationsby national experts established by Governor Ruth Ann Minner’s Executive Order Number Fifty-Four which created review panelsto review Delaware’s school assessments and performance standards in mathematics, and the district and charter school’s math curriculum.
One panel was tasked to look at the Delaware Student Testing Program (DSTP) with a focus on mathematics and the performance levelsestablished for the assessment. This panel was also charged with looking at the levels of incentives and consequences associatedwith the student accountability system, specifically the 3-tiered diploma. The second panel’s task was to review the math content standardsand the district and charter school curriculum alignment to the standards. Both panels were chosen by recommendationsfrom the Delaware Education Consortium, the Delaware Department of Education, and jointly by the president Pro Tempore of the Senateand Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The panel also focused on the procedural aspects of setting performance standards in both grades 8 and 10(called the Bookmark method—an accepted method for determining cut scores). The panel stated that this“…process contained many elements considered to be a standard professional practice: taking the test, a defensible procedure,providing an overview to the DSTP, reviewing actual student work, using multiple rounds for judgment and providing opportunity for discussion.”The experts also stated that the grade 8 and 10 cut scores for “Meets the Standard,” and “Exceeds the Standard” are validby using the Bookmark method, but that the other performance levels (Below the Standard, Well Below the Standard, Distinguished)do not have statistical foundation.
The assessment and accountability panel also looked at testing and accountability policy issues.Regarding the issue of a three-tiered diploma system, the panel stated: “Other important issues of EO 54 fall outside any technical areaof expertise but are largely policy matters. The desirability of awarding different types of high school diplomas is one exampleof such an issue…we defer the authority of elected representatives and other policy makers to make judgments as to the propriety or desirabilityof methods for pursing social, educational, political or economic goals.” They panel added,“The Delaware Department of Education may wish to explore the feasibility of including other academic informationin the decision making process.”
The second panel created by Executive Order 54 asked each of the 19 school districts and 13 charter schools to submit informationabout their math curriculum. Specifically requested were copies of district math curriculum guides for all grades;information about how the district monitors curriculum implementation; and information about math professional developmentthat relates to standards-based math curriculum and/or math instruction. The Curriculum Panel gathered and analyzed mathematics curriculum frameworksto determine to what degree they aligned with Delaware math standards and performance indicators, especially in the middle grades.The panel also looked for explicit connections among standards, curriculum, instruction and state assessments.
“My staff and I have received the report and believe that most of the recommendations are worthwhile,” said Secretary Woodruff.“We will continue to work to improve our system.” Added Secretary Woodruff, “Governor Minner has asked us to work with educators and membersof the General Assembly as we craft a path forward.”
“I will propose that high school diplomas for this school year be awarded in the same manner as in 2004,” said Governor Minner.“A standard diploma will be issued to students based on completion of state and local course requirements,while a distinguished diploma will be awarded based on completion of state and local course requirements plus achieving a diploma index of 4 or better.”Added Governor Minner, “I am also asking the Department of Education to conduct alignment studies to determine ‘Other Academic Indicators’in preparation for use as part of Distinguished diploma requirements in 2006.”
Governor Minner also expects the State Board of Education to proceed with its examination of the course requirementsfor a high school diploma based on the recent study by Achieve that compared Delaware’s requirements to those of the American Diploma Project.The Achieve review found that Delaware standards do not meet requirements for higher education or workforce readiness.Achieve also found that Delaware graduation requirements are minimal and need to be more specific in terms of contentto be included in the course requirements.
Governor Minner has also tasked the Department of Education to convene a work group to address a longer term strategyfor graduation requirements for 2007 and beyond. This strategy must ensure that the requirements for a Delaware diplomawill include the rigor and expectations that will prepare all students for higher education and the workforce.
Delaware Department of Education
401 Federal Street, Suite #2
Dover, Delaware 19901
Phone: (302) 735-4035
Fax: (302) 739-4654
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