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Inaugural Smarter Balanced test data shows stark racial achievement gap

Delaware Public Media

Further analysis of Delaware’s first year Smarter Balanced Assessment scores released earlier this month shows wide racial disparities in English and Math proficiency.

Asian American and white children in all grades performed better overall than those of other races.

African Americans were least proficient, 22 percent passing the math portion and 36 percent proficient in English.

Hispanics performed similarly in all grades. 29 percent earned a three or better in math with 40 percent doing the same for the English test.

“Those disparities are disheartening" said  State Education Secretary Mark Murphy. "Unfortunately, they have been present in Delaware and all around the country for a very long time and so we are constantly working to close those gaps. More importantly, we are constantly working to make sure our children have adequate opportunities to grow academically.”

Murphy called the scores "just one measure of success" and that it's important to also ensure children are prepared to succeed after graduation.  He added the state has implemented programs – like the controversial Priority Schools plan – to try and close that achievement gap, but progress has been stagnant.


“Those are the things that we are trying to infuse into the system – whether it be resources or support for our lowest-performing schools or whether it be access to the best possible teachers for our students who struggle the most,” said Murphy.

“It’s not a cause for celebration, but a cause for encouragement to stay the course because we’ve made tremendous progress,” said State Board of Education chair Teri Quinn Gray, noting that Delaware children outperformed projections from a preliminary field test conducted in the spring of 2014.

Other education officials say these achievement gaps are comparable to past results from the Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System, or DCAS.

80 percent of Asian Americans were proficient in English, with 73 percent achieving a score of three or better in math. White children were 64 percent and 51 percent proficient respectively in those subjects.

Overall, just under 39 percent of all Delaware students are considered proficient in math, with nearly 52 percent passing the English language portion.

State officials are assuring parents and teachers that these scores are just establishing a baseline to grow from, though the test is expected to eventually be incorporated into teacher evaluations under pressure from federal officials.

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