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Tulare County schools fall behind on state average test scores, but local schools are gaining

Tulare County schools fall behind on state average test scores, but local schools are gaining

Sequoia Union charter school leads the way in 2018 scores and gains over the last 3 years


SACRAMENTO — Tulare County schools are still lagging behind the state when it comes to online test scores in English and math, but local schools are making some big strides to try and catch up.

The California Department of Education (CDE) release the 2018 scores for the online California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), also known as the Smarter Balanced Assessment tests, in English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics increased further from the gains students have made since the test debuted in 2015.

Statewide, in all tested grades, 49.88 percent of students met or exceeded the English Language Arts/Literacy standards (Table 1), a 1.32 percentage point increase from 2017 and a 5.88 percent-age point increase from 2015. In mathematics, 38.65 percent of students met or exceeded standards (Table 2), a 1.09 percentage point increase from 2017 and a 5.65 percentage point increase from 2015.

Tulare County schools have outpaced by 0.8 percent in ELA and 2,88 percent in math. However, none of Tulare County’s unified school districts scored higher than the state average in ELA or math, but a few of its elementary school districts and charter schools did.

Sequoia Union Elementary, a K-8 charter school in Lemon Cove, posted the highest scores in ELA and math with 60.75 percent of students met or exceeded ELA standards and 45.79 percent met or exceeded math standards. Sequoia Union has been in line with state average in ELA since the test began and has surpassed the state average in math since 2017.

The country school has also made the largest gains over the last three years. Since 2015, the number of Sequoia Union who met or exceeded math standards has increased by 18.79 percent and 15.75 percent in ELA. That’s about triple state average of growth over the time period. Cutler-Orosi Join Unified has had similar success improving the percent of students meeting or exceeding standards by 15.75 percent in ELA and 16.84 percent in math.

More than half (51.1 percent) of Three Rivers Union Elementary District students met or exceed-ed standards in ELA and 45.16 percent met the standards in math. The only high school district on the short list of schools to beat the state average was Tulare Joint Union, where 54.09 percent of students met standards in ELA.

Visalia Unified, Tulare County’s largest school district, was better than the county average in ELA (47.60 percent) and math (30.85 percent) but did not meet the state average in either.

It was a mixed bag for online and home school sites. Eleanor Roosevelt Community Learning Center surpassed the state average with 51.94 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards in ELA but fell short of even the county average in math with 24.81 percent. California Connections Academy, an online school for K-12 graders in the Central Valley, had 56.8 percent of its students met or exceed ELA standards but just 19.80 percent did so in math.

This is the fourth 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, as they will need to do in college and 21st century careers.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson expressed optimism with continued progress made by students and emphasized much work still needs to be done.

“We’re encouraged by what we see, especially since these tests are more rigorous than previous paper and pencil tests. However, we need to make sure all students continue to make progress,” Torlakson said. “We must continue our work to narrow achievement gaps as we raise the bar for our students, and better prepare for them for 21st century college and careers.”

Students in grades 3 and 4 made the biggest gains, which bodes well for the future as California continues its multi-year transition to more difficult learning standards, said State Board of Education President Michael W. Kirst. “That our younger learners who have experienced standard-aligned instruction since kindergarten are improving faster is encouraging,” Kirst said.

California tested more than three million students. 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.

For the fourth 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.

Smarter Balanced tests consist of two parts: a computer adaptive assessment and a performance task. The computer adaptive assessment bases follow-up questions on a student’s answers in real time and gives a more accurate picture of progress than paper-and-pencil, multiple choice tests. If a student answers a question correctly, they get a more difficult question. If they answer incorrectly, they get an easier question.

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.

It is important to note that the progress of English learner programs should be viewed by the performance of current English learners and former English learners, known as reclassified-fluent English proficient (RFEP).

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