New research reveals that student proficiency test scores for White, Black, and Hispanic eighth graders rise and fall together depending on the overall socio-economic status within each middle school’s attendance pool.
For two decades now, Delaware's test results have been startling and heartbreaking. For instance, only one-third of Delaware's public school eighth graders are proficient in reading and math, including less than one-fifth of Black eighth graders.
In response to the NAEP test results, the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) created its own proficiency measures with tests on English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics.
The latest DDOE proficiency results are:
- Among Black students: 36% proficient in ELA and 24% proficient in math
- Among Hispanic students: 41% proficient in ELA and 32% proficient in math
- All public school grades: 53% are proficient in ELA and 42% proficient in math
Are these consistently poor results for Black and Hispanic students due to cultural reasons or socio-economic conditions?
We extracted data from the DDOE website for Delaware's 32 middle schools. The tests were taken by 7th and 8th graders. Such pupils are at an age where proficiency measures are well established.
Our first correlation between minorities and test scores were inversely proportional, namely the higher the percentage of Blacks and Hispanics in the class, the lower were the scores for ELA and math. The results were statistically significant.
Next, we ran the correlation between scores for all races and the percentage of low income students at a particular low scoring school. Again, the results were inversely proportional, namely the higher the percentage of low income students, the lower the scores.
Lastly, we analyzed the data by middle school comparing the proficiency scores for White students compared to Black students, then White proficiency compared to Hispanic.
The results were both statistically significant and amazing. In higher proficiency schools, all three races scores increased. In low income schools, all three races scores were lower-see charts below for reference.
The results indicate that socio-economic factors consistent with (a) low income areas- including single parent families, (b) poor diet, (c) inadequate health support, (d) and crime negatively impact a student's learning progress. Essentially, more teaching and support are necessary to achieve proficiency among this group.
The DDOE 's "Unit" method of allocating financial and other resources to school districts has been described by others as inflexible, rigid, and antiquated.
Its algorithm only takes one socio-economic factor into consideration, namely number of 'special needs' children in its allocation formula. Most other states account for socio-economic factors mentioned above (a through d), Delaware does not.
We recommend that the DDOE re-allocated the resources to the 10 worst middle schools starting with Stanton Middle School with an ELA proficiency score of 22% and math proficiency score of 10% up to Read Middle School with an ELA proficiency score of 41% and math proficiency score of 21% (with proficiency scores like these, the children are almost pre-destined for an unsuccessful life).
These poor test results could explain why New Castle County, DE is among the highest in the country in the percentage of K-12 students in private schools compared to public schools.