Smarter Balanced Assessment: Indian River district students surpass state average

SELBYVILLE – Scores from the 2015 Smarter Balanced Assessment, released by the Delaware Department of Education Sept. 2, revealed that the percentage of Indian River School District students who were proficient in English language arts and math was higher than the overall state average.

Overall, 58.1 percent of Indian River’s students met or exceeded the state standards in English language arts compared to 51.9 percent at the state level.

In math, 43.1 percent of IRSD students were proficient compared to 38.8 percent statewide.

The percentage of IRSD students meeting or exceeding performance standards surpassed the state average in all but two content areas. In some instances, IRSD topped the state average by double-digit percentage points. The tests were administered to students in Grades 3-8 and 11.

The district’s best showing was in English language arts, where more than 66 percent of fifth-graders and 61 percent of seventh-graders scored at proficiency levels 3 or 4. This exceeded the state average by more than 11 percentage points in both grades. The district’s ELA proficiency rates in Grades 3-8 ranged from 51.3 percent to 66.8 percent. The only area in which the district did not exceed the state average was in the 11th grade, where 46.6 percent of students were proficient as compared to 51.9 percent at the state level.

Although scores in math were not as strong, Indian River still exceeded the state average in Grades 3-8. The district’s best performance was in the third and fourth grades, where 56.5 percent and 54.7 percent of students met or exceeded the standards, respectively. The remaining proficiency rates ranged from 35.5 to 44.5 percent in Grades 5-8.

The only area in which the district did not exceed the state average was in the 11th grade, where 20 percent of students were proficient as compared to 23.3 percent at the state level.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment is part of the new Delaware System of Student Assessments (DeSSA), which replaces the Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS) administered from 2010-2014.

The 2015 results are the first for the Smarter Balanced Assessment, which is aligned with Delaware’s new and more rigorous Common Core academic standards. By focusing on the skills most important for success in college and the workplace, the results provide teachers and families with a snapshot of the child’s progress, helping identify school and student strengths, as well as areas in which support is needed.

“While our district’s 2015 scores are not as high as we would have liked, they are by no means a surprise.” IRSD Superintendent Dr. Susan Bunting said. “Change involves a period of adjustment as teachers and students become accustomed to the new standards. These scores have provided us with valuable baseline data that will enable us to identify our areas of weakness. Two such areas are high school math and ELA. To address these concerns, teachers and other instructional professionals will collectively formulate improvement strategies in the coming weeks.

“It is important to remember that these scores should not be compared to previous years’ scores because the nature and difficulty of Smarter Balanced questions differed greatly from the previous DCAS assessment. While this year’s scores may indicate some growing pains, we are confident that students are well on their way to mastering Delaware’s standards and eventually excelling on the Smarter Balanced assessment. We are continuing to support teachers across the district through professional development so they can further strengthen standards-linked instruction. Likewise, we are providing every school the resources to help students who may be struggling and in need of additional assistance,” Dr. Bunting added.

Smarter Balanced tests different content and skills than the previous DCAS assessments, so scores should not be compared directly. Lower proficiency levels do not necessarily mean that students are learning less, but rather that the achievement bar has been set higher. The new Smarter Balanced Assessment also asks students to demonstrate and apply their knowledge and skills in areas such as critical thinking, analytical writing and problem solving.

IRSD and state scores for 2015 are as follows:

English Language Arts

Percentage Proficient on the Standards

Grade             IRSD               State

Overall            58.1                51.9

3                      58.8                54.2

4                      59.5                53.6

5                      66.8                55.5

6                      57.5                48.5

7                      61.8                50.3

8                      51.3                49.0

11                    46.6                51.9


Percentage Proficient on the Standards

Grade             IRSD               State

Overall            43.1                38.8

3                      56.5                53.1

4                      54.7                46.6

5                      44.5                38.0

6                      38.2                34.1

7                      40.9                36.7

8                      35.5                35.1

11                    20.0                23.3

A number of district schools had strong showings on the Smarter Balanced assessment. Southern Delaware School of the Arts students in Grades 3-8 excelled in both ELA and math, achieving 89.3 and 76.1 percent proficiency rates respectively. Results were especially strong in ELA, where at least 80 percent of students met or exceeded the standards at all grade levels. In sixth-grade ELA, 96 percent of SDSA students achieved proficiency. In Grade 4 math, 90.4 percent met the standards.

At Lord Baltimore Elementary School, third-graders had a strong showing in both ELA and math, with 86.7 percent and 77.1 percent meeting the standards, respectively. Overall, LB had a 76.1 percent proficiency rate in ELA in Grades 3-5.

Long Neck Elementary School also posted solid results in ELA with 71.8 percent of students meeting the standards in Grades 3-5. The school’s ELA proficiency rates were 73.5 percent in Grade 3 and 77 percent in Grade 5.

Parents can view state, district and school DeSSA results on the Delaware Department of Education website:

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