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2023 Legislative Priorities for Delaware K-12 Education
By Dr. Tanya Hettler, Ph.D.
Center for Education Excellence
January 31, 2023
Delaware's terrible scores on the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) have been big news since its release last fall. But it's more important now than ever to revisit how bad they really were because the 2023 Legislative Session has just started. The time is now for Delaware legislators to introduce and vote for bills to help our students become proficient in math and reading.



Delaware ranked 47th in the country with the 4th worst overall test scores. But this is not due to a lack of school funding; Delaware is 9th highest in education spending per pupil out of all 50 states.





The NAEP, or "Nation's Report Card," calculates the percentage of students in each state that scored at or above proficiency level in grades 4 and 8 in math and reading.


The 2022 NAEP scores reflect a sharp drop from the 2019 scores (the last uninterrupted school year prior to COVID-19 closures and remote learning). While Table 1 below shows that COVID-19 closures and remote learning had a considerable impact, this decrease in test scores was just an acceleration of a negative trend that began in 2013.



Table 1:  Delaware's 2019 & 2022 NAEP Scores

(Table Source:


A rule of thumb for the NAEP scores is that a 10 point decline in scaled scores is equal to a loss of one year's worth of learning. Based on this estimate, Delaware students lost approximately one year's worth of learning in both math and reading.



STATEWIDE TEST SCORES:  Smarter Balanced Assessment & SAT


Delaware's Smarter Balanced Assessment evaluates individual students and schools in 3rd through 8th grade, while the SAT evaluates high school students.



Table 2:  State Assessment Data (Smarter Balanced Test & SAT)

(Table Source:


The 2022 Smarter Balanced Assessment results are an average of 13 points worse than the 2019 results. The 2022 SAT results are only slightly worse than the 2019 results. These statewide test results seem to indicate that school closures, remote learning, and mask wearing had a larger impact on younger students than on high schoolers.





In Delaware, parents have the option to choose a different public school for their child if they are unhappy with the school they are assigned to attend based on their address. However, the process can be quite intimidating, especially for busy parents.


If you've visited the Delaware Department of Education's (DDOE) website, you'll find that you cannot easily compare schools and districts without spending considerable time clicking back and forth between one school and another.


To help, we've compiled and calculated the statewide test scores for all schools, districts, and charters, which can be viewed easily by looking at one document. We've also included the impact of COVID-19 closures and remote learning on students' proficiency by comparing 2022 to 2019 results which are not provided by the state's website. You can easily access this document on our website under the Policy Centers/Education for Excellence.



RECOMMENDATIONS: 2023 Legislative Priorities for Education


Now that Delawareans can clearly see and compare the proficiency levels of each of the public schools, districts, and charters throughout the state, and based on education expenditures and teacher licensure requirements as discussed in previous articles (see below), the following recommendations are called for:


  • Delaware's legislators should not place a moratorium on any new charter schools in New Castle County. Doing so would have the effect of eliminating any new options for students in poorly performing schools.


  • We need to reallocate the large education expenditures of our state toward teacher salaries instead of non-instructional costs.


  • Finally, we should loosen the requirements necessary to become a teacher in Delaware to allow more teachers to be hired quickly to meet the current teacher shortages.


These are critical initial steps that legislators can act on in the 2023 Legislative Session that will put Delaware on a positive trajectory toward improving K-12 education for students in the First State.


Dr. Tanya Hettler's Research Articles on Education:






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