2013-08-16 / Front Page

Schools see slight dip in state test scores

Results mirror statewide trend
By Stephanie Guzman

Students in Oxnard Union High and Pleasant Valley school districts scored slightly lower in standardized testing this year compared to last year, as did many schools throughout the state. The California schools chief blames the drop on budget cuts and new standards.

Public school students in second through 11th grades are required to participate in the Standardized Testing and Reporting program, which was established by the state in 1998. The multiple-choice tests, taken at the end of the school year, consist of a number of exams covering language arts, math, history and science.

For the first time in a decade, California students scored slightly worse than the year before in English and math.

Statewide, the number of students who scored proficient or above in math slipped slightly— from 51.5 percent last year to 51.2 percent this year.

The test score for proficiency in English dipped from 57.2 percent last year to 56.4 percent this year.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a press release that the scores were down slightly due to ongoing budget cuts and the fact that teachers had begun shifting their lesson plans to align with the new Common Core state standards.

Common Core, adopted by California and 44 other states in 2010, will standardize public school instruction across the country for K-12 students in English and math by 2014.

The new standards aim to teach students the skills they’ll need for jobs in the 21st-century global economy.

“As valuable as STAR has been, we’re getting ready to raise the bar in California’s schools,” Torlakson said.

Camarillo and Rio Mesa

In Oxnard Union, more than 10,000 students took the test. Half scored proficient in English and 27 percent scored proficient in math.

Adolfo Camarillo High School students scored slightly higher in English this year. Of the nearly 1,700 students tested, 73.8 percent scored proficient in English, compared to 73.3 percent of students last year. However, the high school’s math proficiency scores dropped from about 53 percent to 49 percent.

“Math is kind of like athletics; it’s practice, practice, practice,” said Camarillo High Principal Glenn Lipman. “Some students have a hard time grasping the concepts, so we’re consistently looking for different ways to present the material and to practice.”

Lipman said large class sizes and fewer teachers due to budget cuts adversely affected test scores. He said the school district didn’t fill vacant positions left by retiring teachers.

Teachers typically teach five classes and have one period to plan coursework, but some instructors taught six periods last year.

“We had about 11 teachers teaching six periods,” Lipman said. “Last year was really tough for our staff, but I think they did a great job, all things considered. I’m really proud of them.”

The principal said class sizes are expected to be smaller this fall due to the passage of Proposition 30, which promised to give more money to public schools. Oxnard Union also hired nine new teachers for the Camarillo campus.

About 51 percent of Rio Mesa students scored proficient in English, while 23 percent were proficient in math. In 2012, 46 percent were proficient in English and 26 percent were proficient in math.

Pleasant Valley schools

Pleasant Valley School District has 11 elementary and middle school campuses and more than 5,000 students who took standardized tests.

This year in Pleasant Valley the percentage of students proficient in English dropped from 74 last year to 73 this year. Likewise, the district’s scores went down one percentage point in math proficiency, from 67 to 66 percent.

“Our scores are pretty stable, and we’re seeing far less students being at the below basic level,” said Pleasant Valley superintendent RaeAnne Michael. “We’re moving students into the basic (level) because of intervention programs in place, such as small group instruction and afterschool programs.”

Santa Rosa Technology Magnet was the highest performing school. More than 90 percent of the school’s students were proficient or above in English, and 88 percent scored proficient or above in math.

Last year the school’s English scores were about the same and the math scores were lower, 85.4 percent.

El Descanso Elementary School had the lowest test scores, with 57 percent of students passing English and 58 percent proficient in math.

While low, the numbers show an increase from last year’s scores, 52.1 percent in English and 52.5 percent in math.

To improve test scores, the district will introduce more technology, such as iPads, into El Descanso classrooms. The district will also make El Descanso a kindergarten through-eighth-grade magnet school in 2014.

“We have enough space on that campus to handle a rollout, and I’m looking forward to seeing great strides at that school,” Michael said.

The superintendent doesn’t believe the Common Core transition affected test scores. She said her staff worked hard at teaching the standards while introducing some Common Core lessons.

“We still have one more year of transitioning, and we’re doing a solid job,” Michael said.

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