Testing in Delaware: An Overview
A GreatSchools guide to standardized tests
By GreatSchools Staff
Although test results are only one measure of student achievement, they have become increasingly important in assessing student learning. In 2007-2008 Delaware used the Delaware Student Testing Program (DSTP) to measure student achievement in reading and math in grades 2 through 10, in writing in grades 3 through 10, and in science and social studies in grades 4, 6, 8 and 11. The DSTP is a standards-based test that measures how well students are meeting the state's grade-level expectations.
How are the tests scored?
DSTP results show the level of proficiency a student demonstrates in each of the subject areas tested. For grades 3 though 10, students are rated at one of five performance levels: distinguished, exceeds the standard, meets the standard, below the standard and well below the standard. Students in grade 2 are rated at one of three performance levels: exceeds the standard, meets the standard and below the standard. The goal is for all students to score at or above the state standard.
Which results are included on GreatSchools profiles?
All reading, writing and math scores, as well science scores in grades 8 and 11 only, are included in GreatSchools profiles. For each of these subjects, the combined percentage of students scoring at the level of meets the standard or above is displayed.
Why do the tests matter?
Delaware test results provide an indication of whether students are making progress toward mastery of state content standards. State law requires schools to use test results as a factor in determining grade level promotion or retention. In addition, students who score "well below the standard" in reading in grades 3, 5 or 8, or in math in grade 8, are required to attend a summer instruction program. Students who score "below the standard" receive an Individual Improvement Plan (IIP) the following school year, which may include extra tutoring or other academic support services. Students who perform exceptionally well on the DSTP are eligible for state recognition and scholarships. For high school students, DSTP test results in reading, writing, math, science and social studies are used to determine which type of diploma they will receive: basic, standard or distinguished.
Test results are important to schools because DSTP performance is used by the state to evaluate its schools and to assign school accountability ratings. Schools that produce weak DSTP results for two consecutive years are required to submit a school improvement plan and are eligible for additional funding to encourage improvement.
It is important to be aware of both your child's score on the assessments and the overall scores for her school. If your child scores below the standards, contact the teacher to discuss getting additional assistance, and to find out how you can support your child's learning at home. If the school's overall scores are low, ask what steps the school is taking to raise achievement levels for all students, and what you as a parent can do to help. If your child is in a failing school, ask what your options are for transferring and obtaining supplemental educational services.
A few parting words
Although test results can be an indicator of what's happening in the classroom, they don't tell you everything about the quality of a particular school. Always look at more than one measure when judging school performance and visit in person before making any final assessment.
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