Delaware working to tackle racial disparity in test scores

While Delaware schools have dropped restrictions on students put in place due to the pandemic, the impact of COVID-19 is still evident in student test scores.

A disparity among results for Black and Latino students also continues, as evidenced by standardized tests which are similar to or worse than pre-pandemic test scores.

With the most recent state assessments, Smarter Balance, taken by third through eighth graders in the 2021-2022 school year, Black and Latino students continue to lag in state test scores.

According to the Delaware Open Data for 2019 assessments, 53% of all students scored at or above proficiency in English Language Arts and 44% scored at or above proficiency in math. Hispanics scored 43% proficient in ELA as well as 34% in math, whereas African Americans scored 37% in ELA and 27% in math.

Looking at the most recent statistics from 2022, all students’ proficiency in ELA is 42%, while math proficiency is 30%. A closer look reveals that Latino students are 32% proficient in ELA and in math 21%. Black students are 27% proficient in ELA and math 15% —- resulting in a decrease for all students.

While there is a disparity between white and Asian students and their Black and Latino classmates, there are low scores across the board.

“All of our student groups, you know, are not doing as well,” said Theresa Bennett, director of the Office of Assessment and Accountability from the Department of Education.

Moving all classes to online learning or a hybrid of some in-person and some online likely worsened results.

“There’s some different additional support and nuances that need to occur when you’re teaching online versus when you’re teaching in-person,” added Monica Gant, associate secretary of the academic support team from DOE.

Before the pandemic, state educators were planning to attack the disparity using classroom materials provided by the DOE office. That couldn’t happen when schools were shuttered during the pandemic lockdown. “They abandoned some of the materials that they were using [for in-person lessons], because they were looking for something that could be used online,” Ganc said. This resulted in a “disconnect between the two which… widened that gap.”

“The learning loss was huge,” said Sandi Hagans-Morris, program director for education and workforce development at First State Community Action Agency.

“The pandemic came, but even though it subsided, our students have been left with another barrier and they’re facing mental health challenges … and now we’re retrieving social emotional learning,” she said.

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