How is state grad. rate 88% with 31% math proficiency, 41% ELA?

Jarek RutzEducation, Headlines

The state's graduation rate is more than double the proficiency rates.

The state’s graduation rate is more than double the proficiency rates.

Although just 31% of students in Delaware are proficient in math and 41% are proficient in English language arts, the graduation rate in First State high schools is 88%. 

“While Delaware’s graduation rate is encouraging, understanding achievement requires a deeper look at student growth throughout their K-12 experience,” said Julia Keleher, chief strategy and operating officer for First State Educate, a state education advocacy group. 

Other factors to consider outside of just state test scores, she says, include: 

  • Different types of assessment data
  • Alternative graduation paths
  • Potential variations in standards
  • Limited high school data
  • Graduation rates reflects completion

The state’s proficiency rates are based on the Smarter Balanced Assessments given to students annually in grades three through eight, and then the SAT which is given to all 11th graders.

“As there are different metrics and standards for graduation and proficiency rates, this is like comparing apples and oranges,” said Kendall Massett, executive director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network.

Per Delaware Code, there’s no graduation requirement related to proficiency on standardized tests. 

“Like the vast majority of states in the country, Delaware’s state assessment is not tied to high school graduation,” the Department of Education stated. Only a handful of states in the nation have graduation exit exams.

Rather, the requirements are tied to the amount of credits completed, with requirements in different subjects. 

Students must pass a class to receive the credit, so graduation rate is indirectly tied to grade point average, because if a student has a very low GPA, it’s likely they aren’t passing their classes and receiving credit.

“Graduation rates measure the percentage of students who complete high school within four years,” Massett said. “Requirements can vary but must meet a minimum of 24 credits as set by the state.”

Massett said that both districts and charters can, and in many cases do, set higher requirements than the state.

“Proficiency rates measure the percentage of students who meet or exceed the standards set by state assessments, which for Delaware’s high school students is the SAT,” Massett said. 

Britney Mumford, executive director of DelawareCAN, another state education advocacy group, thinks there might be a hint of grade inflation.

“Nationally, we’re seeing a lot of reports come out about grade inflation, but that’s not to say that the teachers are purposefully inflating grades,” she said, adding that she’s definitely not putting blame on teachers. 

There are policies within some districts, for example, where students are not allowed to receive less than a 50% on any assignment as long as it’s turned in, or situations where they no longer have deadlines, Mumford said. 

“The district might say that teachers have to accept any and all late work and grade appropriately,” she said, “and that seems to be leading to higher GPAs when in fact the content mastery may not be there.”

Mumford also pointed to remarks made multiple times by University of Delaware President Dennis Assanis.

He has stated that a lot of the Delaware students coming into the college were making up the majority of the remedial classes. 

“There was a situation where they didn’t know if they could trust the GPAs coming out of Delaware, because they don’t reflect the actual content that the students know,” Mumford said. 

And this has occurred nationally, she said. 

“A lot of universities that have moved away from SAT and ACT requirements in the last few years are going back to that because they’re saying they literally cannot rely on GPAs because the high schools are graduating students that they should not be,” Mumford said. 

Mumford said she doesn’t want to make the argument that Delaware needs some super strict standardized test.

“But the fact that we use the SAT would make it very difficult because not all students are studying SAT prep courses,” she said. “We have a lot of students that are going into the trades that do not find as much value in certain subjects, so I don’t think that’s really a fair assessment.”

RELATED: Should Vo-techs Do Away With The SAT Tests?

Delaware is one of eight states that require all students to take the SAT in high school. 

Regardless of how much one values standardized test scores, Mumford argued that there does need to be some measure of what students have learned.

“Some standardized barometer [is needed], because at the end of the day I know standardized testing is, you know, a dirty phrase, but we have to know how students are doing,” she said. 

Here’s a look at the graduation rates versus proficiency rates for the state, the 19 school districts and 10 charter schools that have high schoolers:

State

Graduation: 87.79%

ELA: 40.76%

Math: 30.91%

Districts

Appoquinimink 

Graduation: 94.83%

ELA: 48.66%

Math: 40.5%

Brandywine

Graduation: 89.23%

ELA: 40.9%

Math: 32.41%

Caesar Rodney

Graduation: 86.54%

ELA: 43.61%

Math: 32.37%

Cape Henlopen

Graduation: 90.11%

ELA: 55.27%

Math: 49.36%

Capital

Graduation: 83.99%

ELA: 29.31%

Math: 16.59%

Christina

Graduation: 67.24%

ELA: 32.58%

Math: 25.84%

Colonial

Graduation: 85.14%

ELA: 26.58%

Math: 15.62%

Delmar

Graduation: 91.14%

ELA: 40.14%

Math: 26.01%

Indian River

Graduation: 81.52%

ELA: 43.55%

Math: 35.43%

Lake Forest

Graduation: 92.06%

ELA: 43.14%

Math: 31.77%

Laurel

Graduation: 88.14%

ELA: 29.99%

Math: 18.5%

Milford

Graduation: 80.49%

ELA: 34.91%

Math: 23.4%

New Castle County Vo-Tech

Graduation: 96.89%

ELA: 28%

Math: 9.42%

Polytech

Graduation: 98.8%

ELA: 49.3%

Math: 21.87%

Red Clay

Graduation: 89.57%

ELA: 42.52%

Math: 32.71%

Seaford

Graduation: 70.81%

ELA: 39.92%

Math: 28.94%

Smyrna

Graduation: 88.22%

ELA: 39.68%

Math: 31.64%

Sussex Tech

Graduation: 96.11%

ELA: 37.32%

Math: 14.73%

Woodbridge

Graduation: 86.96%

ELA: 35.83%

Math: 27.27%

Charters

Charter School of Wilmington

Graduation: 98.74%

ELA: 93.36%

Math: 87.14%

Early College School at Del. State

Graduation: 95.29%

ELA: 40.78%

Math: 11.16%

MOT Charter School

Graduation: 93.13%

ELA: 64.87%

Math: 60.31%

Odyssey Charter School

Graduation: 100%

ELA: 52.84%

Math: 43.56%

Delaware Military Academy

Graduation: 99.3%

ELA: 55.3%

Math: 23.48%

First State Military Academy

Graduation: 89.32%

ELA: 42.65%

Math: 10.29%

Great Oaks Charter School

Graduation: 65.12%

ELA: 19.23%

Math: N/A

Newark Charter School

Graduation: 98.3%

ELA: 74.66%

Math: 66.57%

Positive Outcomes Charter School

Graduation: 72.22%

ELA: 13.63%

Math: N/A

Sussex Academy

Graduation: 95.04%

ELA: 76.01%

Math: 56.52%

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