Sussex County Delaware

2002 DSTP Numbers
Tell Interesting Stories
Delaware Student Testing Program ...

Some Results Debunk
Myths About Education

SC Online Content Editor

Most journalists will do just about anything to avoid having to do math in their jobs. We believe there are two types of people in the world -- word people and number people. And most of us will do just about anything to avoid having to deal with numbers in our working lives. Except for sportswriters, and they're, well, a different breed altogether.

In reality, however, it's pretty much impossible to stay away from numbers.

Particularly when you're a community journalist; there are always budgets and contracts and taxes and who knows what. And heaven knows, in Sussex County, there's always a sewer project to report on.

And so it was that I found myself wading through the results for Sussex County schools from the Delaware State Testing Program for Spring 2002.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but I found that numbers can tell quite a story, too. The trouble is, sometimes the stories conflict. Sometimes they overlap. Sometimes they just make you want to scratch your head.

Here, then, are a few of the tidbits I picked up while perusing the state test results:

  • Income levels and test scores don't always coincide. Yes, we expect the schools with higher income levels to do better, and they usually do. But there are also quite a few schools where income level doesn't seem to be a factor. Take, for example, Frankford Elementary School, where 69 percent of students come from low-income homes. In the third grade, 97 percent of students either met or topped the state standards. That's 6 percent more students than at Lord Baltimore Elementary in Ocean View. Although both schools are in the Indian River School District, only 17 percent of Lord Baltimore's students come from low-income homes.

So, what does that say to us? For one thing, it says that parents and teachers at both schools should be proud of their work preparing children to be readers. It also says to me that money is not the only factor in students' success.

Let's remember that in the fall, when the debate about whether to create a county-wide school system heats up. Surely there will be some who claim that students in western Sussex schools would benefit from a share of the eastern Sussex tax base. Maybe, but there's much more to it than money, as the DSTP numbers clearly show.

  • High state-wide rankings don't mean schools can rest on their laurels. Cape Henlopen 10th graders, for example, ranked 6th out of 31 high schools in math. However, 55 percent of those same 10th graders didn't meet the state standards. The moral of that story seems to be that rankings are interesting, but the real meat of the matter is whether the kids are learning what they need to learn. And if they're not, why not?
  • Writing scores county-wide show lots of need for improvement. Going back to those same two elementary schools, Frankford and Lord Baltimore, let's check the writing scores of those terrific readers. Less than half of the Frankford third graders met or exceeded the state's standards in writing. And at Lord Baltimore, even fewer -- 42 percent -- met the mark. The question here seems to be this: where's the disconnect between reading and writing and how can it be reconnected? The good news is that fifth graders at both schools did much better in writing.

These are just a few of the things that tended to jump out in our school-by-school review of the spring 2002 scores. Even for a non-numbers person, there's some interesting stuff there.

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