So few kids took assessment tests last year, scores can’t be compared

Betsy PriceEducation, Headlines

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The Delaware Department of Education says student achievement scores can’t be compared to previous years. Photo by Jessica Lewis/Pexels


The Delaware Department of Education on Tuesday released the results of the 2020-21 school year and said so few kids took the tests that the statistics can’t be compared year to year.

For example, only 60% of students took the English language arts and mathematics assessments for grades 3-8, while about 71% of eligible students took the SAT, the state’s high school federal accountability test. Only 49% of eligible students took the state’s social studies and science exams, and only 58% of eligible students took the alternative assessment for students with significant cognitive disabilities.

See the test scores here.

Even more frustrating for comparison purposes, the 2019-2020 spring assessments did not take place because the state shut down schools as the COVID-19 pandemic began. The U.S. Department of Education insisted that schools do 2020-2021 testing.

“While direct comparisons with assessment data from previous years may not be appropriate because of this,” said Secretary of Education Susan Bunting in a press release, “the data provides an important temperature check that allows our schools to better track and address both short- and long-term learning needs.”

It was hard to get children to take tests because classes could be in-person or online, or a mix of the two, making it harder to keep kids on task.

Jane Brady. chairwoman of the Delaware Republican Party, said there’s a lot more to the story. She said the formats of the tests were changed before the pandemic began, and everyone expected generally higher numbers this year because of that.

“I want to do a more in-depth analysis before I suggest what these numbers might like what conclusion you might be able to validly draw from these numbers,” she said.

Among students who did participate, 41% scored at the proficiency level on the 3-8 English language arts test while 26%  did so in math. On the SAT, 49% scored at proficient on evidenced-based reading and writing with 28% on math and 44% on the essay section. Science proficiency was 24% and social students was 30%. For the alt assessment, hitting the proficiency rates were 26% of those taking the English section, 21% for math and 13% for science.

Educators received the results a few weeks after the students tested and families received their student reports last month.

First State Educate, a Delaware group working to improve schools, said the data does indeed offer important insights.

“It’s a stunning set of data but also not very surprising given the pandemic interruption and the state and school-level proficiency rates we’ve seen in our work prior,” said Laurie M. Jacobs, communications manager

“While testing is a limited measure of progress, it still tells a story, and this begs the question, what do we all have to commit to do so much better? … Now is the time for action and transparency, especially around how the federal relief dollars will be spent given this data.”


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