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Education

Delaware mirrors national drop in federal student test scores

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The nation's report card shows a drop in scores for the first time ever -- and Delaware students didn't fare well either in federal student test results out Wednesday.

Fourth and eighth graders in Delaware and around the country take the National Assessment of Educational Progress every two years. In the past, the national score has almost always gone up. This year, for the first time, the math score dropped -- and so did reading.

Delaware's scores fell too from the last iteration of the test, in 2013. The biggest drop was in fourth grade math, from 243 to 239 points. Fourth grade reading dropped from 226 to 224. Eighth grade math fell from 282 to 280, and reading from 266 to 263.

That's all out of 500. And almost all those scores are below the national bar.

But state Department of Education officials say this was a tough year. Chief Academic Officer Michael Watson declined to be interviewed at an education summit in Newark Wednesday. But he said in an emailed statement that Delaware's Common Core efforts haven't yet caught up with the NEAP -- meaning some students were tested on material they hadn't learned. During 2013's test, only eight states were up to speed on Common Core, and federal officials say they all improved.

Plus, says Delaware's Vision Coalition chair Ernie Dianastasis: "There's a broader group taking the test now."

He's talking about demographics like special education students, who were newly included in the test this year in Delaware and several other states. And Dianastasis says that's a good thing. His coalition looks at education reform efforts such as inclusion. They hosted Wednesday's summit.

Plus, he says of this year's scores:  

"The bar is raised, and that's typical for what we learn from other countries," he says. "You're gonna see some slippage in the beginning until folks really can make the improvements with the higher standards."

That means more rigorous requirements and pressure on teachers and schools to improve.

Dianastasis says testing is just one part of how lawmakers and advocates are trying to meet that challenge in Delaware -- though he says it's also a part they tend to disagree on.

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