Indian River students have strong showing in state test
More Indian River School District students have met the standards in this year’s Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS).
The Delaware Department of Education released state testing scores on July 19 for grades 3 to 10, which showed the percentage of district students who were proficient in reading, math, science and social studies was significantly higher than the overall state average.
Although more students passed the test, fewer received very high scores, compared to 2011 when IR students scored first, second and third in almost every category statewide.
“Our students are doing really, really great at getting into that performance level 3. Where we’d like to go now is raise the rigor to that 4 and 5 range,” said Sandy Smith, IRSD director of assessment and accountability.
Students are tested in fall and winter to set a benchmark and measure progress. Their springtime test is officially scored for state ranking. Tests are online, so teachers and students get their results immediately. Students who do not meet the standards, or who wish to improve scores, may take the test a fourth time at the end of the school year. They are credited with the better of the two scores.
“It is a psychological impact of when a student takes it [and can see], ‘There’s where you did fabulous, and here’s some places where you really are struggling,” said Smith. “We’re going to provide that support, and they can do better that next time. It’s those students you can get to a 3.”
Last year, Indian River was named a superior district, although the state will not use these labels in 2012. Schools must instead prove that they meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), either improving scores or surpassing state averages for each subcategory, including various socioeconomic groups, the disabled and so forth. AYP results will be announced in August. This status will determine the technical assistance each school received for improvement.
According to a district press release, the district’s most impressive performance was in math, where more than 90 percent of third- and fourth-grade students scored at the proficiency level. Grades 5 and 8 had proficiency rates of more than 85 percent. In reading, the district was strong at the third-grade level, where more than 88 percent of students were deemed proficient. The district exceeded the 80-percent proficiency mark in grades 4, 5, 6 and 8.
100 percent of IRSD students were proficient in 2nd grade math at Long Neck Elem.; 3rd grade math at East Millsboro Elem., John M. Clayton Elem. and Long Neck; and 4th grade reading and math at Long Neck. Close behind, 95 to 99 percent of IRSD students were proficient in various grade levels at math at East Millsboro; 3rd grade reading (East Millsboro and Long Neck); 3rd grade math (East Millsboro, J.M. Clayton and Southern Delaware School of the Arts); 5th grade reading (Long Neck and SDSA); and 6th grade reading (SDSA).
Statewide, IRSD students ranked second overall in fourth-grade math and fourth-grade social studies. It ranked and third overall in fifth-grade science, eighth-grade science and seventh-grade social studies. The district also ranked fourth in the state in third-, fifth-, sixth- and seventh-grade math, and sixth- and seventh-grade reading.
SDSA ranked third in the state in fifth-grade reading, and the sixth-graders ranked fifth in the state in both reading and math. Indian River High School tenth-graders ranked sixth in the state in reading, math and science. In the ninth grade, IRHS ranked eighth in math and ninth in reading. In science, J.M. Clayton fifth-graders ranked fourth, SDSA fifth-graders ranked fifth and Selbyville Middle School eighth-graders ranked seventh.
“In a year when test scores increased across the state, our students continued to reach for a higher bar,” superintendent Susan Bunting said in a statement. “To have more than 90 percent of the district’s students achieve state standards in third- and fourth-grade math is a tremendous achievement. We are extremely pleased at not only exceeding the state average in most content areas but also improving upon our 2011 performance. We expect this pattern of improvement to continue in the future. Our teachers and staff have once again done an excellent job preparing students for these challenging assessments.”
“Some of our schools had 100 percent. That’s phenomenal, especially for a high poverty school,” Smith said.
Long Neck Elementary School in Millsboro was rated as a “highest performing” Title I Reward School and received $50,000 in special funding.
Room for improvement
However, IRSD and the state struggled with tenth-grade science. Delaware improved by one point, to 42 percent, while IRSD dropped several points to 41 percent. Both high schools had a drop in scores.
“It’s something we’ve really got to look at so we can make sure students are better prepared,” said Smith. “For a while, every single school was 90 percent or higher, and now, all of the sudden there’s a disconnect. No one wants to see 41 percent.”
Smith noted that biology is commonly taught in tenth grade, while physical science is for ninth grade. However, this year’s test focused heavily on physical science. Testing can be difficult if classrooms are not constantly reviewing that earlier course material. IRSD will also examine end-of-year biology test scores to see how students fared in district assessments.
Schools have much to juggle as they integrate new common core standards for learning, which focuses on reading and math.
“In the coming months, we will closely analyze assessment data for the purpose of formulating strategies to improve in our areas of weakness,” said Bunting. “We will also work to close achievement gaps among the various socioeconomic subgroups within our student population. While we are pleased with our 2012 DCAS scores, we recognize we have additional work ahead of us as we strive to enhance proficiency in all content areas.”
“I think you could walk into any of our schools, and each child knows their own personal data and has made their own personal goals,” Smith said. “I give the schools a lot of credit to build that culture … students have really taken ownership of their own learning, and I think that’s what we’re all about, and that’s an exciting part about the testing.”
The IRSD school board presentation on DCAS results is available online under the July 24 agenda at www.boarddocs.com/de/irsd/Board.nsf/Public. Parents can view school, district and state results online through the State of Delaware DCAS at http://de.portal.airast.org or Department of Education at http://dstp.doe.k12.de.us/DCASOR.