Standards and Accountability: The foundation of any school accountability system rests on solid academic standards, and assessments aligned with those standards. Delaware has clear and specific standards in elementary, middle, and high school for mathematics and science. The state has clear and specific standards in English at the elementary and middle school levels and in social studies/history at the middle and high school levels.
Delaware is one of only 12 states whose tests are aligned with their content standards for every grade span in the four core subjects. Delaware’s tests include a variety of items to gauge student performance.
The state’s grade improved from 2004 because it added extended-response questions in math for grades 3 through 10.
The state also uses data from its assessments to hold schools accountable for results. It publishes school report cards containing achievement data, and assigns ratings to every school based, in part, on test scores.
Schools rated low-performing receive help. Yet the accountability system lacks sanctions for all consistently low-performing or failing schools, including non-Title I schools.
Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality: Although Delaware requires only a basic-skills test for teachers to earn their initial licenses, it also has a performance assessment, consisting of classroom observations, to evaluate novice teachers once they are in the classroom. Teachers in the state earn continuing licenses if they successfully complete the requirements for their initial licenses and receive satisfactory annual evaluations.
The state also garners points for its comprehensive system of professional support and training for teachers. Delaware requires and finances mentoring programs for new teachers during the three years that they teach with an initial license. The state also sets aside time and money for professional development.
But the state’s spotty efforts re-emerge in the area of accountability for teacher quality. Delaware’s school profiles do not include as much teacher-qualification data as some other states’ report cards, although the state plans to include more information on “highly qualified” teachers in its next round of reports.
Delaware also does not hold its teacher education programs accountable for the quality of preparation that their students receive, nor does it identify low-performing teacher-preparation programs or publish passing rates or rankings by institution.
School Climate: Delaware earned the top grade for school climate this year, though many indicators of parent involvement and student engagement from the National Assessment of Educational Progress background survey place the state below national averages.
The state’s grade is high because Delaware has all of the policies in place that Education Week tracks in calculating school climate grades.
Delaware is one of 17 states that survey students, teachers, or parents about conditions in their schools. The state does so through a partnership with the University of Delaware.
The state also is one of only five to include information about school safety, class size, and parent involvement on its school report cards.
Moreover, Delaware has a statewide system of open enrollment and a charter school law rated strong by the Center for Education Reform.
Equity: Delaware is one of just 10 states with negative wealth-neutrality scores, meaning that, on average, property-poor districts have more state and local revenue than do wealthy districts.
In addition, Delaware ranks fourth on the coefficient of variation, which means that, compared with other states, Delaware has very little variation in funding across its districts.
The only problem area for the state is its McLoone Index. Delaware ranks 42nd on this indicator, which compares the total amount spent on students in districts below the median with the amount that would be needed to ensure all districts spent at least the median.
Spending: Delaware spends $9,072 per student for education, according to data from the 2001-02 school year. That is well above the national average of $7,734 per pupil and places the state seventh among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Almost 97 percent of students attend schools in districts that spend at least the national average. On the spending index, which compares the level of funding across the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Delaware ranked seventh. From 1992 to 2002, the state increased spending on education an average of 2.6 percent annually, after adjusting for inflation. Delaware does all of this even though it spends a relatively low percentage of its total taxable resources on education, at 2.6 percent.