DCAS Testing Has Huge Gap in Fall and Spring Scores - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

DCAS Testing Has Huge Gap in Fall and Spring Scores

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DELAWARE - As parents in the first state know, the first couple of weeks of February marks the peak of the testing period for the Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System, commonly referred to as DCAS. But at some schools across the state, students are being encouraged to take the test easy, as peers, parents, and even educators are putting less of an emphasis on the fall test. 

WBOC spoke to students from various schools in the state who say there is less of an emphasis on this first test, and so many do not give it their best effort on test day.  

Officials confirmed that teachers are at times supportive to students, telling them to not worry if there performance is below expectations for this first test, stating it is a baseline examination to show where they are before they begin their year-long studies.

Seventh grader Nanci Cancinos Cash of the Georgetown Middle School described the first test in the fall to WBOC Thursday afternoon. 

"The first time it's just calm," she said. "You don't have to stress over it. And we just relax."

From the DCAS scores, a school can rate a child between a 1 and a 4. 1's and 2's are considered below average, whereas the latter two are rated as proficient scores. Cash said that on the first go, a 1 or a 2 is deemed acceptable by many of her teachers. On the second tests though, there is a renewed level of importance, she said. 

"I think they say try harder," she said. "So you can improve and get a four or a three."

WBOC looked to the data to see if her comments had some backing, and found that there were huge increases from the fall to the spring. No matter what grade level or subject matter, the jump was gigantic. For example, 3rd grade reading jumped from about 33 percent proficient to just about 70 percent. And in math, this jumped even more so, a full 50 percent higher. 

Mike Lingenfelter from the Indian River School District said the students are still expected to perform in both though. He said the first is meant to be like a baseline, but that doesn't mean the kids shouldn't try hard. 

"You're looking at that benchmark as far as where are we," he said. "It's kinda like preseason football. In terms of, we're going to take the test and go through the process."

Superintendent Susan Bunting from the school district agreed that they would not tolerate any educators taking the test lightly. However, she did admit that many teachers warn their students not to lose too much sleep over a bad score since it is just preliminary.  

Allison May, of the Delaware Department of Education, said that there are some benefits to good performance out of a school. She said schools around the state have various classifications. Very high achieving schools are classified as "Reward and Recognition Schools." 

Schools that are underachieving in at least some aspects, can be classified as "focus and partnership schools," she said. And these schools can leave this classification with adequate improvements.

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