• Delaware’s accountability system is built on the backbone of strong college- and career-ready standards and tests, and it has put in place a number of policies to steer more students toward college and career success.


  • Delaware clearly sought out and respected the feedback from stakeholder groups. Throughout its plan, it cites specific feedback as an explanation for why it’s pursuing the option it chose.


  • Delaware has carefully selected a simple list of high-quality indicators to include in its accountability system, including a focus on students being ready for college and careers.


  • By lowering its minimum group size from 30 to 15, Delaware is ensuring more schools will be asked to pay attention to the performance of important subgroups of students.


  • By including science and social studies in the accountability system, the state is signaling the critical importance of a well-rounded education for all students. Delaware’s approach to measuring English language proficiency contains a number of interesting, innovative experiments, although its accountability system undermines those efforts somewhat.


  • Finally, in addition to the indicators used for formal school-rating purposes, the state has clearly articulated another set of measures that it will track and report on school report cards for public transparency purposes. Delaware includes these measures in its robust school report card.




  • While Delaware’s framework is strong, its plan is vague in several areas. It does not articulate how most of its individual accountability components would be measured, or how they would factor into overall ratings. Delaware’s plan seems to propose multiple school-identification systems that the state is still considering, but all are underdeveloped.


  • Similarly, Delaware’s plan lacks clarity on how exactly it would hold schools with large achievement gaps accountable. It doesn’t specify how many schools would be identified or what steps they would be asked to take.


  • The state’s plan for improving low-performing schools lacks specificity and could allow schools to stagnate rather than improve.


  • Finally, the state’s long-term vision is not fully reflected in its ESSA plan, so it is difficult to follow the through-line from vision to implementation.


Click through the tabs on the left to see how Delaware scored in each category.



Delaware’s “Student Success 2025,” developed with stakeholders over the past few years, presents a comprehensive vision for student achievement in the state.


While the state’s ESSA plan is meant to implement that vision, the state missed the opportunity to clearly articulate the connections between that vision and this plan. The plan is difficult to make coherent sense of — and many decisions in the document appear to be driven by stakeholder survey responses rather than aligned to the state’s expressed long-term vision.


Delaware has articulated a vision of improving proficiency rates and graduation rates by 50 percent by the year 2030.


The state has also articulated interim targets overall and for each subgroup. This approach demands that lower-performing subgroups make faster progress than higher-performing groups, thus closing achievement gaps over time.


However, Delaware had previously aimed to reach these same targets by the year 2017. While the plan cites stakeholder buy-in for continuing the same methodology, applying the same target to a much longer time frame suggests a much less ambitious goal.


Moreover, Delaware’s 2030 proficiency target is not tied to any particular objective bar or benchmarks, nor is it supported by any historical trend analysis. While Delaware’s approach may have stakeholder buy-in, it’s unclear if the targets are sufficiently ambitious. Cutting the achievement gap in half over the next 14 years may indeed be an accomplishment, but absent more data on what Delaware schools have accomplished in the past, it’s hard to know if that goal is ambitious or realistic.


Delaware’s graduation targets are supported by historical trends.


However, those trends call into question whether the 2030 goals are ambitious enough: the state has experienced a 4.8 percent improvement in graduation rates over the past four years, but targets only a 7.9 percent increase over the next 14.



Delaware’s standards are strong and it has a high-quality assessment system in grades 3-8 through the Smarter Balanced consortium.


At the high school level, Delaware is using the SAT as its accountability assessment. While the SAT is familiar to students and families, and it is recognized at colleges all across the country, we don’t yet know whether the SAT is fully aligned to Delaware’s state academic standards. It is also unclear if there are sufficient accommodations in place for English learners and students with disabilities.


Similarly, Delaware could strengthen its plan by providing the steps it will take to ensure that the state does not exceed the 1 percent cap on participation in the alternate assessment for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.


Delaware also deserves credit for including its assessments of science and social studies in its accountability system.


That decision will help lessen concerns about curriculum narrowing and will force schools to pay attention to student performance beyond reading and math.



Delaware has chosen a simple list of high-quality indicators to include in its accountability system.


It plans to use academic achievement, academic growth, ninth-grade on-track, chronic absenteeism, college and career preparedness, graduation rates, and progress on English-language acquisition. In addition to the indicators used for formal school-rating purposes, Delaware has clearly articulated another set of measures that it will track and report on school report cards for public transparency purposes.


The “college- and career- preparedness” indicator is particularly noteworthy.


The state proposes reporting the percent of students who are postsecondary-ready — as evidenced by demonstrating college readiness (earning at least one of these: AP credit, IB credit, other postsecondary credit, or a college-readiness score on the SAT) and career readiness (earning at least one of these: a recognized industry credential, a certificate of multiliteracy, work-based learning credit, or a military-ready score on the ASVAB). Delaware should monitor its data to ensure that each measure aligns with later success, but it deserves credit for pushing in a direction that allows all students to demonstrate advanced skills along multiple pathways.


Delaware has not given much detail about how its measures will be calculated.


It also does not specify how indicators such as academic progress and school quality/student success will be folded into the accountability system. The growth measures are particularly confusing. As another example, Delaware is proposing to incorporate four-, five-, and six-year graduation rates into its accountability system, but it does not specify how it would weight each of those, or if it would keep a primary focus on the four-year rate.



Delaware has placed a large emphasis on student progress in its accountability system, giving growth a weight of 35 percent of the total.


Although it has given growth the largest single weighting of any measure, it’s not clear how Delaware is actually planning to measure growth. In different places in its submission, it mentions three different growth metrics — overall growth, growth to proficiency, and growth of the lowest- and highest-performing quartiles of students. It mentions that these are open conversations and that stakeholders have had trouble interpreting its past growth model calculations. All three of the models have strengths and weaknesses, but the state should be clear about why they’ve picked these models and how much each will be weighted.


Delaware’s plan is noteworthy for its relatively sophisticated model for tracking English learners’ progress in reaching full English language proficiency.


The plan has two components:


  • As with most states in the WIDA consortium, Delaware sets each student’s individual English proficiency timeline according to his or her initial scores and subsequent progress – asking for faster progress from students who score higher.
  • In addition, Delaware is allowing students to earn partial credit on their annual growth goals (or bonus credit for students who exceed targets).



Delaware deserves credit for lowering its n-size from 30 to 15.


Lowering the n-size will ensure more schools are paying attention to more subgroups of students, and the state provides compelling data on how many more students will be included as a result of this change. Because the lower n-size will also add extra volatility, the state may want to consider running statistical tests to monitor year-to-year swings to see if they reflect real changes, and if not, including multiple years of data in its calculations.


Delaware will not be incorporating subgroup scores into the state’s school-rating system.


While not ideal, this could be acceptable if Delaware outlined clear, rigorous criteria to identify “targeted support” schools with low-performing subgroups. But, although the state plans to identify some schools under this definition, it’s unclear if the state is planning to identify 5 percent of each subgroup (i.e., the 5 percent of schools with the lowest-performing subgroup of black students, the 5 percent of schools with the lowest-performing subgroup of students with disabilities, etc.) or if the state is envisioning one composite group based on all subgroups.


Delaware has given deep consideration to its methodology for measuring the performance of English learners.


However, it weakens that approach somewhat in its school accountability system. It proposes to delay the full inclusion of newly arrived English learners in its accountability systems until they have been in Delaware schools for four consecutive years, which excludes students who are most at risk of being left behind.



Delaware has not articulated a clear strategy for identifying schools in need of additional support.


The state proposes two distinct identification systems. First, it proposes a percentage-based weighting system to identify schools that need “comprehensive” and “targeted” support – but more information is needed to understand how those components will be defined or incorporated. Delaware also proposes converting these metrics into a 500-point scale, which also requires more detail to fully understand.


Delaware is planning to focus its accountability system on school-wide averages, and its rating system does not account for subgroups of students within a school.


Presumably, it will be using these school-wide averages to identify “comprehensive” support schools — and it will rerun its accountability scores for each subgroup of schools in each school to identify schools to be identified for “targeted” support. The state has run extensive models and simulations to ensure that its process captures the “right” schools, but its submitted plan was not clear on that front.



Delaware’s plan to support schools is vague.


The state seeks to tailor support to individual schools, and thus requires a needs assessment for every identified school. However, the state does not specify any criteria for the content of improvement plans, based on the needs assessment, nor does it say how it will approve local plans or distribute funding requests for the $3 million Delaware has set aside for school-improvement activities.


Delaware has a detailed timeline for identifying schools and monitoring performance, but it won’t identify schools until November of each year.


In this case, Delaware would wait nearly six months after the end of the school year for which the identification is based. The state may want to consider ways to move that timeline up (perhaps using multiple years of data) so that students can benefit faster from any required actions.

Exiting Improvement Status


Delaware did not identify specific criteria for schools to exit improvement status.


Even for schools that fail to exit improvement status within four years, the state has not articulated any specific actions or steps they must take, other than working with an external partner on an additional needs assessment. The state should instead consider defining the series of escalations that will occur if schools continue to flounder.

Continuous Improvement


Delaware does not include a plan for continuously improving the state’s efforts.


It does mention how it will support district efforts at continuous improvement, but it is short on details on its own feedback mechanisms and how it would change its own practices over time based on that feedback.


Throughout its plan, Delaware has built in comments from its stakeholder engagement efforts, and it could outline ways it will continue to seek that sort of engagement going forward as well.


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