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Schools stand out in school-level state test results

New state assessment results released today show strong gains made by schools across the state.

Last month, the Delaware Department of Education released preliminary 2016 state and district- and charter-level Smarter Assessment results for grades 3-8 and social studies and science results for tested grades. The state released final results, including building-level scores today.

Grades 3-5 Smarter Assessment

While the state as a whole showed progress in almost all grades and subgroups for both Smarter English language arts (ELA) and mathematics, the building-level scores reveal even stronger gains at some schools.


For example, Brandywine School District’s Harlan Elementary School saw an overall gain of 14 percentage points in grades 3-5 ELA, which included an almost 40-point gain in third grade ELA (13.8 to 53.7 percent proficient). In math, the third grade gain was 28.4 percentage points (17.9 to 46.3 percent).


Harlan Principal Hekima Wicker attributes the school’s growth to many factors, including rigorous and meaningful curricular support for teachers and staff provided by the district’s resource team. Harlan uses Eureka/Engage NY Math Curriculum, Learning Focused Solution strategies, blended learning, and Walpole Intervention support to raise instructional rigor and student achievement, he said. 


The school’s common planning time for teachers – also known as a Professional Learning Community -- is data-driven, results-oriented, and focuses on leveraging leadership amongst staff, Wicker said, noting Harlan uses Schoology for lesson studies, peer observations, and professional development. 


Two elementary schools in the Appoquinimink School District, Cedar Lane and Silver Lake, were among the schools that made the greatest gains in math for grades 3-5. They are just two examples of strong gains made across Appoquinimink, a district that already was performing above the state average.


“I’m pleased by our performance but feel there’s more work to be done,” Superintendent Matt Burrows said. “That’s why my message to parents, staff and Board is that we will continue to stress: 1) common goals; 2) emphasis on foundational strategies for teachers like common planning time, common lessons, formative assessments, and the common language of Learning Focused Schools; 3) commitment to walkthroughs (where we learn from one another); and 4) district-wide effort to make sure lessons provide children with the chance to exercise creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking – the building blocks of engagement.


“That’s how you build a culture of success – with a consistent focus on these elements. That’s how we’ll ensure that our students are prepared to compete successfully on the global stage,” Burrows said.


Cedar Lane Elementary Principal Melisa Stilwell said her school’s success is tied directly to multiple professional development opportunities staff have participated in, including on effective student collaboration, meaningful academic engagement and productive struggle. She also pointed to the walkthrough process that gives teachers fact-based feedback to help drive instruction, adding some teachers also piloted a peer-to-peer cycle of observation and reflection that all teachers will participate in this coming year. Lastly, the school started offering a Morning Math Academy twice weekly for selected students to help improve their math understanding and fluency.


Smyrna’s Clayton Intermediate was another bright spot. It saw a 15-percentage point gain in ELA for fifth grade. Smyrna Superintendent Debora Wicks pointed to several factors, including adoption of the Common Core State Standards, Learning Focus Lesson plans and training initiated in 2008 and funded partially by the district’s federal Race to the Top grant, Professional Learning Communiteis, detailed pacing guides including vertical teaming and a district investment in reading and math specialists and new curricular materials.


2016 Proficiency in ELA, Grades 3-5:  57%

 3-5 ELA

2015 Proficiency in ELA, Grades 3-5: 54%

 2016 Proficiency in ELA, Grades 3-5: 57%

3-5 ELA growth  

2016 Proficiency in Math, Grades 3-5:  49%

3-5 math  

2015 Proficiency in Math, Grades 3-5: 46%

2016 Proficiency in Math, Grades 3-5: 49%

3-5 math growth  

Grades 6-8 Smarter Assessment


Likewise, there were strong gains in some schools for the 6-8 grade band. For example, Woodbridge Middle School in the Woodbridge School District saw a 14 percentage-point gain (31 to 45 percent proficient) in ELA and 11 points (21 to 32 percent) in math.


Woodbridge Middle Principal Tina Morroni said her school focused last year on improving the school culture, making the school a more welcoming environment. Staff learned about trauma informed education and specific steps were taken to embrace the Compassionate Schools model of caring for the whole child, she said.


Staff also spent a lot of time digging into data and analyzing root causes. And in eighth grade, where the school saw the most growth, Woodbridge tested out a standards-based curriculum map with supporting materials used to teach the standards.



2016 Overall Proficiency in ELA, Grades 6-8:  53%

 6-8 ELA

2015 Overall Proficiency in ELA, Grades 6-8: 49%

2016 Overall Proficiency in ELA, Grades 6-8: 53%

6-8 ELA growth  

2016 Overall Proficiency in Math, Grades 6-8:  38%

6-8 math

2015 Overall Proficiency in Math, Grades 6-8: 35%

2016 Overall Proficiency in Math, Grades 6-8: 38%

6-8 math growth  

Smarter subgroup gains


Several schools also made strong progress amongst its subgroups.


While the size of its subgroups was low, Lake Forest East Elementary in Lake Forest School District had some of the greatest subgroup gains in the state for its grade 3 scores.


English learner students increased 42 percentage points in ELA (25 to 67 percent proficient), and African American students increased 37 points in ELA (19 to 56 percent). In math, English learner students increased 55 percentage points (20 to 75 percent) while African American students gained by 25 points (25 to 50 percent).


Principal James Dick said all students were “screened” in ELA and math at the beginning of the year. The data was displayed in I-tracker, easily accessible to teachers and himself. This data, along with other data points, was used to create flexible grouping the classrooms, which allowed the teachers to deliver differentiated instruction throughout the day. 


East’s educators were able to see if the students were responding to the targeted inventions. If not, adjustments were made. An Instructional Support Team (principal, teachers, guidance counselor, psychologist, behavior interventionist, instructional interventionists) also met every six weeks to discuss student progress. 


Seaford School District saw strong subgroup gains in in both Central and Douglass elementary schools.  At Seaford Central, Hispanic student performance increased by almost 55 percentage points (33 to 88 percent) for ELA. English learner students gained in ELA by 29 points (10 to 39 percent) while African American students’ proficiency increased in ELA by 26 points (32 to 58 percent). At Douglass, English learner math performance increased by 32 points (7 to 39 percent) and ELA performance was up by 26 points (7 to 33 percent). Low income students also saw strong gains in math: 24 points (30 to 54 percent).


There were some highlights for students with disabilities, too. At Red Clay Consolidated School District’s Lewis Dual Language Elementary, performance in grades 3-5 math increased by 41 percentage points (5 to 46 percent proficient).


“There are certain non-negotiables that we believe are part of our classroom instruction at Lewis and are contributing to our success.  First and most important is our belief in the dual language immersion program and its implementation,” Principal Ariadna Castaneda said. “Every day teachers plan for content and language objectives. They have had systemic professional development on how to use effective strategies to make content comprehensible in the target language.


“You will find students doing math talks and learning science, arts, and music in the Spanish language while learning to read and write in both English and Spanish.  There are meaningful conversations among teachers and staff about data, students, our triumphs, and also our challenges but always with an end in mind which is how to move forward keeping in mind our goal ‘to foster bilingual literacy and success for every child.’  You breathe commitment and dedication here at Lewis,” she said.


 Olive B. Loss Elementary in Appoquinimink, among the top performing schools statewide overall, saw its students with disabilities make progress in ELA with the grade 3-5 band increasing proficiency by 26 percentage points (48 to 74 percent).


Principal Lorraine Lybarger pointed to her staff’s participation in a year-long, ongoing professional learning based on a book called “Comprehension & Collaboration – Inquiry Circles for Curiosity, Engagement and Understanding.” The staff planned lessons together that would implement the principles of inquiry-based learning then after implementing the lessons, shared the strengths and areas that needed to be tweaked, she said.


DCAS science and social studies


The state also released building-level results for DCAS Science, administered in grades 5 and 8, and DCAS Social Studies, administered in grades 4 and 7. For science, several schools performed well above the state average and others showed strong growth outpacing that of the state:

science growth

Several schools also stood out for social studies:

ss growth

Find the full data set here.

Alison May
(302) 735-4006