The 2011 Delaware student assessment results show that, as expected, on a state level students showed growth in reading and math between fall and spring.
This school year the state launched the Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS). This adaptive assessment was administered on the computer for most students and replaced the state’s previous paper-and-pencil exam, the Delaware Student Testing Program (DSTP). Students took the exams in the fall, winter and spring, giving educators the opportunity to adjust instruction throughout the year to meet student needs.
On the DCAS reading test, in the lower grades, the increases were generally higher, and as grade level increased, the amount of gain decreased. By year’s end, about 60 percent of students at each grade (3-10) met or exceeded the standard in reading. Notably, about one third of students in each grade scored in the advanced level in reading.
The mathematics gains appear to be larger than the reading gains. The gains for grades 3, 4, and 5 are between 30 and 40 percent, with the largest gain at grade 3 (39.2 percentage points). The gains for grades 6 to 9 are between 20 and 25 percentage points, and the gain for grade 10 is 18 percentage points.
The state’s science and social studies tests also were administered online this year, though each only had one testing window and the social studies exam was not adaptive. The DCAS science test results showed fewer than half of tested students meeting the standard. In the three grades tested in spring 2011, fewer than 49 percent of fifth graders demonstrated proficiency. Similarly, fewer than 48 percent of eighth graders and 40 percent of 10th graders met the proficient standard. Science trends across districts mirrored long-term patterns seen during the DSTP years, but at a lower level likely due to more stringent performance level cut scores.
On the grades 4 and 7 DCAS social studies test, more than half the students performed above the cut. Respectively, 64.4 percent and 55.6 percent of students met the standard.
The full score release is available online here.
Several factors impacted this year’s results, including:
- Higher Proficiency Standards: In September 2010, the State Board of Education adopted a new scoring system that “raises the bar” for what is considered proficient on the exam. The new system recognizes that we must be preparing our children to compete in a global economy by requiring a greater mastery of core subjects to achieve a rating of “proficient” on the exams. As expected, this depressed student scores, both individually and in group/aggregated scores.
The state expected an initial drop in student scores this year. The previous standards may have indicated a higher percentage of students meeting expectations, but that was because the bar was lower. The new expectations better measure how children need to be prepared to succeed when competing with students around the nation and world.
The good news is that students performed generally better than pre-test predictions and made substantial score gains during the year.
This is an important change to note as parents are interpreting their children’s individual scores as well as school, district and state results. A lower score does not necessarily mean your child knows less than he or she did last year or that he or she is somehow "doing worse in school.” It means that the new standards require a higher level of mastery of information and concepts. Like the DSTP scores, the DCAS scores will not impact a student's grades or be reported to any colleges where a student is applying.
When parents receive their reports, the new scores will be accompanied by information that demonstrates how the student would have done against the old proficiency standards that were in place with the DSTP.
- New Test Format: In previous years, students took pencil-and-paper tests. The online adaptive format of the new DCAS state assessment -- including expectations that students could operate scrolling features, drag-and-drop items, and multiple assessments during the spring assessment window -- proved challenging for many students during the initial year of test administration.
The state is planning further analysis of these results, including:
- Participation irregularities at specific grade levels for students with disabilities and English language Learner students and for students in general at specific grades in science and social studies.
- Impact of specific accommodations (e.g. Read Aloud accommodation for students with disabilities and English language learner students on the DCAS reading assessment) on aggregated reading scores
- Achievement gap patterns
The state also sees other areas for promising research:
- Impact of scheduled test time on student score
- Impact of expanding DCAS Item Pool on Test Score Trends in future years
- Impact of Teacher Professional Development on Common Core Standards Aligned instruction on DCAS scores
The state will release school accountability ratings in late August, which may be affected by another change – an AMO reset. Annual Measurable Objective (AMO) refers to the percentage of students who must be proficient in reading and mathematics on state standardized tests each year as required under federal No Child Left Behind regulations. Schools must meet the AMO for all enrolled students in grades 3 to 8 and 10, as well as each specified subgroup of students (including major race-ethnic groups, students with disabilities, English language learners). Under the 2001 law, all students must demonstrate proficiency in reading and mathematics by 2013-2014.
A ‘reset’ changes the interim AMO “steps” or target percentages schools must meet. Delaware Department of Education -- with the support of the state’s districts and charter schools and at the recommendation of the U.S. Department of Education -- applied for a reset of the target percentages for reading and mathematics for the current year as well as for 2012 and 2013. Eight other states already have been granted similar resets due to changes in their state assessment or other policy changes.
DDOE submitted the request to reset AMO targets based on our beliefs that the reset was advisable because of the introduction this school year of a new statewide assessment and higher proficiency standards, which raise the bar for what level of mastery is considered proficient.
The reset changes the proficiency targets for 2011-2013 but still adheres to the requirement that 100 percent of Delaware public school students in grades 3-8 and 10 demonstrate proficiency in reading and mathematics by 2013-14. The reset gives the state extra time for teachers to complete training in the use of instructional units aligned to the Common Core Standards and classroom instructional approaches for students needing additional learning support to the new test and for the accompanying support to be in place without moving the end goal.
How are the new online tests better than paper-and-pencil tests?
Paper-and-pencil tests are considered fixed form and every student receives the same set of questions in the same order. With a computer adaptive test (CAT) the questions and the sequence of questions is unique to the individual student. Students will not see the same test questions more than once, and they never see the next question until they answer the question they are on. Reading operates a bit differently in that the student sees multiple questions at one time -- all related to the same reading passage. Students are allowed to mark questions for review and return to them later. Most students were given 50 items per subject.
The reading, mathematics, and science tests are adaptive. The social studies tests are not.
Taken during multiple testing windows throughout the year, these tests help to identify a child’s strengths and weaknesses and give teachers immediate feedback so they can focus the instruction in the child’s classes to meet his or her needs.
Schools also have more flexibility in administration of the exam, being able to administer part of an assessment on one day and the rest on another. Students can stop at different points in an assessment, and assessments can be given at any time of the day. A student can test only once in any test window. In 2010-2011, there were three test windows (fall, winter and spring). In 2011-2012, there will be the option of taking the test twice in the spring with the higher score counting.
When and how will parents receive their students’ scores?
Parents will receive a printed student report annually. This year’s will be mailed to the addresses provided by schools in late July. Schools also are able to generate reports to share with parents throughout the school year.
How do schools match current accommodations and accommodations available for DCAS?
Most accommodations have remained the same with slight modifications due to the online assessment (e.g., large print is now larger font size). Some accommodations have been discontinued as they are no longer relevant (e.g., accommodations relating to the writing assessment). There were a small number of accommodations that were new for the online administration. These are handled on a case-by-case basis to determine if the IEP team will need to reconvene to discuss if these are relevant for a student. There are fixed paper versions of the test available as an accommodation for students documented as needing paper forms. These forms include only multiple-choice items. Paper forms and Braille forms are available for each testing administration.
Does my child’s highest score count?
The spring assessment scores are used for accountability. Next year, when there are two spring testing windows, schools will have the option of testing up to twice in the spring window and using the highest score from those two testing dates.
Why did my child’s score go down from earlier in the year to a later testing date?
This year, Delaware students in grades 3 through 10 participated in three assessments of reading and mathematics using the new DCAS (Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System) computer assessment.
The expectation was that student scores on the DCAS during the fall 2010 test window would be their lowest score of the year in either reading or mathematics because the DCAS presents them with test items tied to the skills and knowledge to be covered in their current grade level. Later in the year, as the students participate in the mid-year and spring DCAS assessments, their scores would in increase as a result of their classroom learning of the grade level material.
In cases for which improvement in scores is not shown, other factors may have affected your student’s test scores. Difference in motivation or effort on the mid-year assessment, or difficulties in following directions on specific test items are three possible explanations. Conversely, positive influences such as recent classroom instruction on mathematics concepts or reading strategies that the student subsequently applies during the DCAS assessment session may explain significant increases. Incidental occurrences, such as improvement in health or new glasses, also may impact student performance.
Delaware Department of Education
401 Federal Street, Suite #2
Dover, Delaware 19901
Phone: (302) 735-4035
Fax: (302) 739-4654
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