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County schools see few gains in state testing

County schools see few gains in state testing

Most districts, schools are below county, state average for number of students meeting or exceeding state standards in English language arts and mathematics

By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN

TULARE COUNTY — Overall Tulare County schools saw little improvement in state test scores despite a steady gain for schools throughout the rest of the state. The results of the online California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) tests in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics for 2015-16 school year were released that week with Tulare County schools averaging a slight decrease (-0.31%) and a slight increase (+0.27%) in math. In comparison, the State average continued to outpace Tulare County with a 4% improvement in both the number of students proficient in ELA and math.

That trend played out in the foothill districts with Farmersville Unified, Lindsay Unified and Woodlake Unified all falling further behind the county and state average while Exeter Unified was able to stay above the county but not the state average. In Exeter, 40% of students were proficient in ELA and 27% in math, about 2% better than the county average. Students at Lincoln Elementary fared the best topping the county average in both ELA (38%) and math (40%). A third of Woodlake Unified students were proficient in ELA and just under 23% in math. Woodlake Valley Middle School students scored slightly higher than the county average in both ELA and math. In Lindsay, less than a third of students were proficient in ELA and less than 20% in math. The bright spot was Washington Elementary, where students exceeded the county average in ELA (42%) and math (38%).

Farmersville Unified again scored the lowest among unified school districts in Tulare County. In ELA, less than a quarter (21%) of students were proficient and, despite a 2% increase over last year, just 12% of Farmersville Unified students met or exceeded state standards in math. Only Freedom Elementary had a higher proficiency rate than the county average in math (31%).

Some of the smallest school districts fared the best in the new online-only testing format. Outside Creek south of Farmersville dipped slightly in its ELA scores but made huge gains in math proficiency with a 7% increase. Sequoia Union Elementary in Lemon Cove far exceeded both the county and state average for student proficiency in grades K-7. More than half (52%) of Sequoia Union Charter School students (K-7) met or exceeded state standards in ELA and nearly 4 out of 10 (39%) in math. The single school’s eighth grade class, which does not fall within the charter school, were at the state average in ELA (48%) and more than half (52%) were proficient in math. Three Rivers Union School improved its ELA score by 3.5% and math by 6% keeping the single school district above county and state averages. Half of Three Rivers students were proficient in ELA and 42% in math.

While most grades in Strathmore did not meet the County or state average for proficiency, schools in the unincorporated community saw some of the biggest improvements in their scores. Strathmore Elementary School, which is separate from Strathmore High School, saw gigantic leaps in both ELA (6%) and math (7.5%) proficiency. Strathmore High School similarly saw a more than 5% increase in ELA and math. Harmony Magnet Academy, Strathmore High School’s sister school with shared athletics and arts programs, remained one of the highest performing schools in the entire county with 9 in 10 students meeting or exceeding state standards in ELA and more than half (57%) in math. Sunnyside Elementary, a single school district in Strathmore, saw a 2% increase in ELA and a 3.5% increase in math.

This is the third year of the computer-based tests, which use California’s challenging academic standards and ask students to write clearly, think critically, and solve complex problems, just as they will need to do in college and 21st century careers.

California testing went smoothly for 3.2 million total students. On a single day (May 9, 2017), nearly 500,000 students took the online tests, the largest single day of such assessments ever. The most widely used tests are the Smarter Balanced Assessments in mathematics and English language arts/literacy, which are given in grades three through eight and grade 11. School districts have had access to their own results since May. Parents received individual student scores over the summer.

For the third year in a row, less than 1 percent of students did not take part in the assessments due to a parental exemption, a figure that is far less than in other states where similar tests remain controversial.

The performance task challenges students’ ability to apply their knowledge and skills to problems in a real-world setting. The two parts measure depth of understanding, writing, research, and problem-solving skills more thoroughly than the previous multiple choice paper tests.

Scores on the assessments fall into one of four achievement levels: standard exceeded, standard met, standard nearly met, and standard not met. The state also computes the average scores of all tested students, by grade level, called “mean scale” scores, which reflects the progress of all students rather than only those who changed achievement levels from one year to the next.

Statewide, in all tested grades, 48.56 percent of students met or exceeded the English language arts/literacy standards, at 4.56 percentage points change from 2015. In mathematics, 37.56 percent of students met or exceeded standards, also an increase of 4.56 percentage points from 2015.

California State Universities and many community colleges consider high marks on these tests for eleventh grade students a reliable sign of readiness for college-level work. This year’s results indicate 59.76 percent of grade eleven students are ready or conditionally ready for credit bearing college work in English language arts, with 32.14 percent ready or conditionally ready for credit bearing college work in mathematics.

It is important to note that the English learner (EL) group contains only current English learners. Once English learners become fluent, they are reclassified as fluent English proficient and are no longer counted in the EL group. To better determine the progress of ELs, it is recommended to view the California School Dashboard which uses multiple measures to determine the progress of English learners.

Parents can get individual student test scores. In addition, California provides CAASPP Results Web page, where parents and teachers can view and compare aggregated results among schools, districts, and counties along with statewide results.

The California Department of Education (CDE) provides a wide range of tools to help parents, teachers, and schools understand and use CAASPP results.

These resources include an understanding student CAASPP scores Web site www.cde.ca.gov/nr/ne/yr17/yr17rel67a.asp that provides parents and teachers with grade-by-grade, subject-by-subject information at all levels of achievement; detailed online guides for parents and teachers to use in analyzing results; and practice tests at every grade level in English and mathematics.

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