Mid-way through their first year of plan implementation, Delaware's 19 school districts are making progress toward Race to the Top targets, but more gains are needed in the coming months for some to end the year on track.
After analyzing winter and fall state assessment results, Former Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery recently completed mid-year performance evaluations that will help local leaders adjust work in the months ahead. The aim of the evaluations was to assess progress, celebrate success and direct focus on areas that need work in the coming months. Charter schools, which because of their size received less money, are being monitored as well but did not receive formal mid-year evaluations.
In the coming months, districts will dig deeper into their data to try to determine cause-and-effect relationships between work underway and test results to date. As at a February meeting, the March 22 chiefs' meeting will be used for superintendents and their top district leadership to discuss district data and initiatives collaboratively. Gov. Jack Markell, who joined the superintendents in February, also plans to attend the March meeting. State staff also will conduct further data analysis to identify district strengths, coupled with on-site visits in April to help understand the connection between district initiatives and performance data.
"Most exciting for me is that in several districts we see significant improvements already, and those gains correlate with where initiatives are underway," Lowery said. "We need to dig deeper, verify that what we think is working is in fact the catalyst and, if so, find ways that we can replicate that success in other schools.
"We also need to look closely at those areas where we aren't seeing the progress we expected," she said. "If course correction is needed, the time is now."
Using data to help districts and charter schools identify strengths and areas for improvement is key to Delaware's education reform efforts, helping ensure that the state's education investments and efforts are targeted at initiatives that improve outcomes for students. State officials recognize, however, that they have limited data to review at this point and that data only tells a part of the picture of what is happening in a district or school.
"The data provides a call for focus, not a conclusion," Lowery said.
Important to note before analyzing the fall and winter data is that students are being tested on their grade-level material, so the expectation is not that they would be proficient mid-year. In other words, a third grader is being assessed based on the proficiency expected when he completes the grade in the spring. Although with different items, the same test is used in fall, winter and spring to assess student growth. Thus it is most likely that many students will not have mastered all of the material at the beginning or middle of the year.
Looked at collectively, the district data provides a statewide picture as follows.
As of winter 2012, across all grades, 54 percent of students are proficient in reading and 49 percent in math. Significant achievement gaps exist at all grade levels based on race, income and disability status - with the greatest gaps between students with and without disabilities (42-49 percentage points in reading and math). About 27 percent of students in grades 3 to 10 scored above the proficiency level at what is considered advanced level for their grade in reading, and 14 percent are advanced in math.
Looking at changes from fall to winter, statewide, all subgroups showed growth in the percent proficient in reading and math from fall 2011 to winter 2012 across grade bands. Growth was greater in grades 3 to 5 than in 6 to 8, and it was greater in grades 6 to 8 than in grades 9 to 10.
In reading, children designated as coming from low-income families had greater growth than their peers across grade bands, indicating a narrowing of the achievement gap. Students without disabilities had greater growth than those with disabilities, however, and growth for racial subgroups was largely similar - though slightly higher for Hispanic students. In math, there was less growth among underrepresented subgroups than their peers across grade bands, suggesting a widening of achievement gaps.
State officials also compared fall 2011 to winter 2012 growth in percent of students scoring proficient or higher with the growth in fall 2010/winter 2011. Reading and math proficiency and advanced rates largely were the same as in the previous winter with a few exceptions: grades 6 to 8 reading proficiency is 4 percentage points higher; grades 9 to 10 math proficiency is 2 percentage points higher; and grade 8 math advanced is 2 percentage points higher.
Important to note when looking at the data, however, is that the dates of the testing windows shifted this year, so some students took the winter exam earlier than they did last year, giving them less time to cover the material in 2012.
The state's management of district Race to the Top plans includes three major routines: progress reviews, performance evaluations and chiefs' workshops. Progress reviews occur one to three times a year -- depending on grant size and progress - on site at the districts, and they assess district progress on plan activities and opportunities to improve. Performance evaluations, such as those just completed, occur one to two times a year - depending on grant size and progress - at DOE, and they assess district performance on plan measures and identify opportunities to improve. All 19 districts will have performance evaluations in June; 12 had the additional mid-year performance evaluations in February (based on grant size and/or performance to date).
Chiefs' workshops are monthly meetings at DOE to discuss Race to the Top data and initiatives as well as identify opportunities to improve in professional learning communities of chiefs and other top district leadership.
These resources http://www.doe.k12.de.us/rttt/rttt_midyear_pe.shtml provide a picture of statewide and district performance. For the February 2012 district performance evaluations, all data is formative, only marking progress toward districts' Race to the Top targets, which begin in Spring 2012.
Following are some highlights from district analysis:
- Cape Henlopen School District's math proficiency in grades 3-5 is at 60 percent in winter 2012 - that represents 14 percentage points above the state average, and 8 percentage points above the district's winter 2011 math proficiency. It also represents a 24 percentage point increase in proficiency from this past fall, which is 4 percentage points more fall to winter growth than last year.
- Christina School District's grades 9-10 reading proficiency rate was 7 percentage points higher than it was last year, with greater fall to winter growth than the state (7 percentage points for the district vs. 5 percentage points statewide).
- In Indian River School District, students with disabilities' grades 3-5 proficiency rates were 33 percent (reading) and 32 percent (math) vs. 15 percent and 14 percent for the state. Both subjects had 20 percentage points increase from fall to winter, which was 2-8 percentage points more fall to winter growth than last year. The proficiency "gap" between students with and without disabilities in grades 3-5 is smaller than the statewide gap.
Delaware Department of Education
401 Federal Street, Suite #2
Dover, Delaware 19901
Phone: (302) 735-4035
Fax: (302) 739-4654
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