While the Milford School District spring 2013 Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS) scores did not surpass those of spring 2012, the district is impressed with its growth during the 2012-2013 school year and elementary reading proficiency rates surpassing state averages.
With the public release of the most recent DCAS results for the state and individual school districts last week, educators are now looking for trends in improvements and areas in need of curriculum development.
"I think we did very well if you look throughout the categories and grade levels," said Travis Moorman, director of teaching and learning for the Milford School District. "As a district, we're fairly happy with how we did. Elementary grades are very strong and there's a fair amount of growth in the middle schools."
However, comparing Milford School District spring 2012 scores to spring 2013 scores, there is a slight decrease across the board for almost every grade level and subject, in addition to an enrollment decrease.
"While our end-of-year performance last year was higher, you're not looking at growth, you're just looking at how kids ended up," Moorman explained.
"Last year's growth rate overall was very high. [This year], all around it went down a little bit. Sometimes when you have a great big growth spurt like that it's hard to maintain," said Mispillion Elementary Principal Susan Donahue. "It's kind of hard to always have big growth, especially when comparing different groups of children."
BANNEKER ELEMENTARY SURPASSES STATE READING AVERAGES
Benjamin Banneker Elementary School reading scores surpassed state averages by more than 15 percent, with 91.18 percent of third graders scoring at proficiency levels compared to only 70.55 third graders for the state. The school saw 89.29 percent of its fourth graders bringing in proficient scores, compared to the state's 73.62 percent. More than 95 percent of the school's fifth graders were proficient in reading, compared to the state's 76.65 proficiency level for fifth graders.
"That's a testament to the hard work that our teachers put into planning their instruction," Moorman said.
Lulu Ross Elementary and Mispillion Elementary also surpassed state reading averages by smaller percentages, except for Mispillion Elementary fourth graders with 73.27 percent of students meeting proficiency levels.
"Elementary-wide, we were pleased with the overall performance of the district," Donahue said. "When you look at those results, you celebrate the successes but you also use that data to see areas where you need to continue working to do better."
DECREASING THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP
Moorman said that every student categorized in a subgroup - special education students, English language learners, low socioeconomic students and varying ethnic groups - met DCAS proficiency levels, some with as much as a 60-percent increase from fall 2012 to spring 2013 tests.
"Historically speaking, there's been as much as a 50-percent gap between our subgroups," Moorman said. "That's something everybody across the state really struggles with − looking at those subgroups and planning accordingly."
Page 2 of 2 - Other minority students in third through tenth grades in the Milford School District came within one percentage point or exceeded the standard math proficiency rates in each grade level. Fourth-grade minority students scored the highest out of this subgroup, with a proficiency rate of 89.32 percent compared to reference group's 83.98 percent proficiency.
"We're starting to decrease that achievement gap," Donahue said. "If you can see any kind of growth in that direction, it's a good thing and it shows we're trying to meet the needs of every child in our building."
Special education and English as a second language learner scores showed the largest gaps in both reading and math, with seventh-grade special education reading scores falling 55.31 percent lower than the reference group.
TENTH-GRADE WEAKNESSES, PLAN OF ACTION
"Secondary-level increases have not been as big as we would like," Moorman said.
Tenth-grade students' proficiency rates fell below state standards across the board, with a gap of 9 to 10 percent in proficiency levels between the district and the state.
Of 252 tenth graders tested in science, only 32.14 percent of students reached proficiency standards, compared to the state's 42.2 percent of tenth graders.
"That's something we've targeted already and started our planning process to provide resources teachers need to help their students achieve," Moorman said. "We need to provide more support at the district level."
Reading scores at the tenth-grade level were also lower than the state's, with Milford students scoring at a proficiency rate of 64.15 percent compared to the state's 73.34 percent. Math scores revealed 59.19 percent proficiency in tenth grade Milford students, compared to 69.24 percent proficiency throughout the state.
Moorman said the shift in classroom curriculum due to adopting common core standards has been another challenge, especially when DCAS is balanced on both old and new standards, he said.
"[We will be] providing the resources to our middle and high schools to help the teachers to continue to show change from beginning to the end of the year," Moorman said. "Milford has always done a good job in adapting to what the educational system presents to us. As a community we focus on trying to meet those high expectations and strive to be one of the best districts in the state."