Accelify Blog

Schools See Rise in Test Results (CA)

August 17, 2010

If California’s public schools were a corporation, its stock would be going up.

Student academic performance, measured by the Standard Testing and Reporting program through a variety of state standards tests, continues to rise in the face of dwindling state funding and increasing class sizes.

Results of the testing, released Monday by the California Department of Education, showed the state’s second- through 11th-grade students are steadily improving in the four test areas — English/language arts, mathematics, science and history.

It’s the eighth consecutive year of improvement, according to the state.

Local schools are following the state trend, showing steady improvement ranging from slight to significant. When lumped together, the increases were slight. Certain schools posted remarkable gains.

Fifty percent of Santa Barbara County public school students in second through 11th grades are proficient or advanced in English and language arts, a strong focus of teaching in regions like Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties with large Hispanic populations.

That number is up 1.4 percent from 2009 test scores.

The English proficiency numbers range from 35.7 percent i n the Santa Maria-Bonita School District — a 1.3-percent improvement over 2009 – to 60.9 percent in Lucia Mar Unified School district in the Five Cities area — a 3.2 percent improvement over last year.

Exactly half of the students tested in Santa Barbara County are advanced or proficient, compared to 48.6 percent  in the 2009 testing.

Statewide, 52 percent of students are proficient or advanced in English, a 2-percent improvement over 2009.

In Lompoc, history exams taken at the end of the course in eighth and 11th grades showed the most marked improvements, with a 3.2-percent increase of advanced/proficient students.

Mathematics scores district wide also improved by nearly 3 percent, while science scores taken in fifth, eighth and 10th grades fell less than 1 percent.

“We like to mirror that. We like to show we’re improving as the state is improving. That’s always the goal,” said Santa Maria-Bonita spokesperson Maggie White.

White said the district has adopted new English and language arts textbooks and curriculum, which went into use for the first time Monday, that will allow it to better teach students of various abilities.

“We anticipate with the new language arts program and the kind of training the teachers were given, that the language arts portion of the program will see much more growth in the future,” White said.

Likewise, the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District showed slight increases in language arts, history and science. There were slight declines in mathematics and science.

“(The district) continues to make academic gains as reflective on the CSTs. Our progress, for the most part, is similar to statewide trends. Growth is evident schoolwide and among our significant target populations such as English learners, students with disabilities and socio-economically disadvantaged students,” said Kathy Frazier, assistant superintendent for curriculum.

Nipomo Elementary in the Lucia Mar district showed one of the most dramatic improvements in mathematics scores, moving from 50-percent proficient and advanced in 2009 to 69 percent this year. The school’s English/language arts numbers also showed a 12.4-percent increase.

Grover Beach Elementary showed similar gains, with increases of 11.6 percent in mathematics and 10.8 percent in language arts.

Nipomo High School also had double-digit improvement in its history scores, with a 10.3-percent increase in proficient and advanced over last year.

“I think the growth we had at Nipomo Elementary is the highest we’ve ever had in our district,” said Andy Stenson, assistant superintendent for curriculum.

Adam Elementary in Santa Maria was one of the Santa Maria-Bonita’s top performers in mathematics moving 12.9 percent more students into the advanced/proficient categories compared to last year.

“Their math is probably one of the biggest increases in the district,” White said.

While overall marks showed improvement, some scores regressed, which Stenson said is probably the result of less school funding.

“I think some of that can be attributed to more kids in the classrooms,” he said, indicating average class size in the lower grades has gone from around 20 to 26.7 students.

Stenson said the district used some State Fiscal Stabilization Funds last year in its lower-performing schools. He said that investment and some program changes were brought on by being in Program Improvement, a state designation that requires curriculum changes to increase student performance.

“Part of it is the Program Improvement issue. Once you get in, it’s a race to get out,” he said. “Accolades go to our teachers. Being a site teacher and principal, I know the hard work that goes into those scores. We’re extremely pleased.”