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State lawmakers, education advocates react to student test scores

State lawmakers and education advocates are reacting to Delaware students’ performance on this year’s statewide tests.

Fifty-thre percent of third through eighth grade students across the state are proficient in English, a 1 percent drop from last year. The percentage of students proficient in Math, 44 percent, remained the same.

Delaware Department of Education officials say scores have been generally trending up since the state transitioned to the Smarter Balanced tests in 2015.

Daniel Walker is with the education non-profit Delaware Campaign for Achievement Now, or DelawareCAN. He calls the additional money a good first step, but wants to see a stronger commitment by state officials to improve the quality of public education.

“It’s great for, you know, certain schools to be doing well and having 10-point, 15-point gains," he said. "But what is that doing for sort of the parent whose child is at Bayard (Middle School), right, that’s only 4 percent proficient at Math. That’s not a comforting fact to them.”

Frederick Douglass Elementary in Seaford has seen a 25 percent rise in English proficiency since 2015. Seaford School District superintendent David Perrington - in a statement - credits a “push don’t pity” approach. He said it requires educators to take responsibility for students’ learning and for students to believe they can succeed.

Delaware Department of Education officials say individual schools showing gains in proficiency are signs students are making strides. But some question the point and reliability of the tests. State Rep. John Kowalko (D-Newark South) sponsored legislation in 2015 that would have allowed parents to opt their kids out of testing - a bill vetoed by former Gov. Jack Markell (D). Kowalko maintains they are a waste of time and money.

“That is not an accurate measure," he said. "That’s an unfair measure. And what the results are are just to make money for the private consultants.”

In a statement, Delaware State Education Association President Stephanie Ingram echoes Kowalko’s concerns. She said there has to be a better way to measure student improvement and growth.

"If this assessment is given to show student improvement, then it isn’t working," she said. "We need a timely and responsive representation of how the students are learning and comprehending what they are taught throughout the year.”

Walker said he hopes the ongoing lawsuit over funding inequities will force needed changes to give school more resources that lawmakers have so far been unwilling to address, like property tax reassessments.

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