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Delaware ranks 45th in education in new data report, test scores and chronic absenteeism continue to worsen

Delaware Public Media

A new report ranks Delaware 45th in education nationally, with declining test scores and increasing rates of absenteeism.

This year’s Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Data Bookshows 75 percent of Delaware fourth-graders are not proficient in reading, 82 percent of eighth-graders are not proficient in math and 25 percent of students are chronically absent.

Delaware KIDS COUNT Director Janice Barlow says reading proficiency rates are particularly alarming.

“Because fourth grade is kind of that pivot point where kids go from learning to read, to reading to learn," Barlow says. "And so if they are not proficient by fourth grade, then they are going to have trouble keeping up in other subjects as they move on.”

Barlow notes declining math proficiency could put students at a disadvantage in the workforce. STEM makes up a quarter of all jobs in the U.S. – about 36 million.

This year’s education numbers also show 55 percent of kids ages 3 and 4 are not yet in school, and the number of high school students not graduating on time almost doubled from 2019 to 2021 to 20 percent.

Barlow says chronic absentee levels are coming down from mid-pandemic levels, but remain much higher than before.

“Some kids are chronically absent because they have trouble getting to school, safe routes and things like that," she says. "Other pieces of the equation may have been impacted by the pandemic. There are questions around how sick is too sick to send my kid to school? If there are sniffles should I keep them home? Sometimes school policy around illness and when a child can or can’t be there.”

The state’s overall rank is 31 with Delaware eighth for kids’ economic well-being, 25th for health, and 32nd for family and community.

Social determinants of health like poverty, and COVID learning loss, are negatively affecting student outcomes, although Barlow says the state’s scores were already low before the pandemic.

Rachel Sawicki was born and raised in Camden, Delaware and attended the Caesar Rodney School District. They graduated from the University of Delaware in 2021 with a double degree in Communications and English and as a leader in the Student Television Network, WVUD and The Review.