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Base schools score well on DSTP

By Airman 1st Class C. Todd Lopez

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (Oct. 22, 1999) -- The results of the Delaware State Testing Program were recently released, and Dover Air Force Base schools did well in many areas.

The DSTP tests, administered in the Spring of 1999 to third, fifth, eighth and tenth grade students measured their abilities in reading, writing and mathematics.

Students at base schools attained some of the highest scores in the state.

Fifth and eighth graders at base schools, along with students at Dover High School, which serves Dover Air Force Base, were among the top five highest scoring schools in the state on the mathematics portion of the test. All three base schools had students scoring amongst the top ten schools in the state for the reading portion of the test.

For the writing portion of the test, the fifth graders at Welch Elementary School, did better than any other fifth graders in Delaware. But that result is really no surprise for base school instructors.

"They learn to write through every grade level," said Al Bratten, a fifth grade teacher at Welch Elementary School. "We've made an integrated curriculum, which includes writing. It is no longer enough to have the right answer. They must be able explain how they got their answer."

"And writing helps kids get their thoughts together in some cohesive order," said Sue George, also a fifth grade instructor at Welch Elementary.

George explained that intensive writing is part of every course work for nearly every subject, from mathematics to social studies.

"One of the best teaching strategies in the past ten years has been the emphasis on the writing process, said Franni Melda, Welch Elementary School principal.

The increase of writing in the classroom is not the only explanation for student's academic performance, however. Another factor may be the teacher to student ratio at base schools.

"If you're in a class with 21 or 22 kids, as opposed to a class with 30 kids, the teacher has more opportunity to meet with those kids that need a little extra help," said Melda. "Those students who are experiencing some difficulties can then get the help they need."

A change in the learning process has also had an effect on student performance.

Lynn Kilgore, Arnold Elementary School principal, explained the shift in the educational system.

'Twenty years ago, learning facts was enough, today, the amount of factual information available doubles every 18 months. It is not possible for students to learn all the facts today," explained Kilgore. "There has been a shift in the educational paradigm, students must now be problem solvers. They must know how to find the facts on their own. They must learn to learn."

"There is now an emphasis on cognitive learning skills. Students are not asked to do as much rote memorization as they had in the past," said Paul Van Horn, Dover Air Force Base Middle School principal.

The increase in reading, the high teacher to student ratio, and the shift in the learning process have all empowered students at base schools to perform better on the state's standardized tests. But perhaps the most important factor influencing students at base schools is not in the classroom at all.

"Parents remain closely involved in the learning process," said George. "And because of the unique home situations, we do not have a lot of social problems here. At least one person in the family has some respect for authority, as a result, the kids get along much better here."