State tests show Cape students exceed Delaware averages

Cape High’s essay scores up 9 points
September 9, 2019

Cape Henlopen schools scored above state averages on state assessment tests, but generally made slight gains over last year’s scores - except for a nine-point jump in the SAT essay score.

Scores were released by Delaware Department of Education Aug. 1 on Smarter Balanced math and English language arts assessment tests for grades 3 to 8 and the SAT administered in high school. 

Math scores

At 44 percent proficiency, Delaware’s overall rate of math proficiency for grades 3 to 8 is unchanged since last year. More than half of the state’s students continue to perform below grade level.

Cape’s math scores for grades 3 to 8 were above the state average, with 60 percent of students considered proficient, up from 57 percent in 2018. Despite the rise, 40 percent of Cape students remain below grade level in math.

Rehoboth Elementary third-graders bested the state average by 29 points; Rehoboth fourth- and fifth-graders also scored about 15 points above state averages. District schools scoring below state average were H.O. Brittingham fourth grade and Mariner Middle sixth grade. 

Cape Supervisor of Elementary Education Donna Kolakowski said while HOB’s math scores are still low, they have gone up 20 points since the Smarter Balanced test was first given in 2015; HOB improved 4 percent over last year.

“We’re excited to see the gains,” Kolakowski said. “We worked with the administration to focus on our low-income, special education and African American students, and figure out how to improve their proficiency rates as a district-wide goal, not just at HOB.” 

Kolakowski said instruction and classroom support for teachers, particularly training on culturally responsive interactions and trauma-informed instruction, will help improve scores.

At 32 percent proficiency, over two-thirds of Mariner Middle sixth-graders performed below grade level. At Beacon, students scored 17, 30 and 37 points above grade level in sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

Delaware Department of Education spokesperson Alison May said math remains a priority focus for the governor. She said he wants to ensure every child is reading on grade level by grade three and proficient in math by eighth grade.

“This year’s budget continues to expand the number of math and reading coaches across Delaware schools,” May said. “Additionally, we believe that the investment in opportunity funding will help districts and charters close achievement gaps and set more children up for success.”

In March, the state announced a three-year, $60 million opportunity funding initiative for English-learner and low-income students. Cape received $661,000 this fiscal year to create new positions and programs that will provide strategies and support for students.

English language arts scores

In English language arts, statewide scores for grades 3 to 8 dropped one point from 2018 to 53 percent proficient in 2019. That means just over half of the state’s students are performing at or above grade level.

At 67 percent proficiency, Cape schools surpassed state-average scores in grades 3 to 8, and rose 2 points from 2018. Still, one-third of Cape students are performing below grade level.

Rehoboth Elementary fourth-graders scored 88 percent proficiency, well above the state average of 50 percent. Rehoboth students also scored about 20 points above state averages in third and fifth grades. Love Creek Elementary fifth-graders soared to the top of district averages at 79 percent proficiency in reading.

In third through fifth grades, HOB scores lag behind other district schools, either below or about equal to state averages. However, scores for Mariner Middle range from three to 13 points above state average.

Cape’s Kolakowski said HOB’s reading scores have gone up 9 percentage points since the test was first given in 2015. “Scores are gradually going up,” she said.

Beacon Middle eighth-graders scored 82 percent proficient, 30 points above the state average. Beacon sixth- and seventh-graders scored about 20 points above state averages, meaning about two-thirds of Beacon sixth- and seventh-graders are proficient in English. 

SAT results

Delaware uses the SAT to assess proficiency of high school students. The SAT is divided into three sections: evidence-based reading and writing, math, and essay. Students scoring above 480 in reading/writing and above 530 in math are considered proficient; students scoring below are nonproficient. 

Statewide student proficiency on the SAT remained relatively unchanged from last year. Cape High students scored above state averages in all three sections, and Cape High essay scores rose nine points from 2018.

Cape Supervisor of Secondary Education Mike Young attributed this year’s jump in essay scores to input from last year’s juniors.

“After they took it last year, we had them fill out a survey that asked them what were their biggest challenges,” Young said. “They said the timed test was most difficult.”

Young said English, social studies and math teachers all had students complete timed, in-class assignments as practice for the tests.

“We feel that helped them manage their time better and organize their thoughts to complete their writing when given a timed piece,” Young said.

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