The California Standardized Testing and Reporting tests, also known as STAR, are given to second-through 11th graders throughout the state, ranked by five levels; “advanced,” “proficient,” “basic,” “below basic” and “far below basic.”
The state board of education has standardized the “proficient” level as the goal for all students who are tested. That is in line with state accountability grown target and the federal No Child Left Behind program.
Overall, PJUSD saw a slight dip in English language arts and math scores, according to Veronica Miranda, assistant superintendent of educational services
This year, statewide scores slipped by a fraction of a percentage point with 51.2 percent of test takers scoring “proficient” and “advanced” in math slipping .3 of a percentage point from last year. Also, 56.4 percent of test takers attained “proficient” and “advanced” in English, a .8 percent lower than in 2012.
Despite last year’s success, test scores for students in the local district have risen dramatically in the past few years since 2008. In one example, 33 percent of the 2008 fifth-graders scored “proficient” and “advanced” in English and 39 percent in math, while results for 2013 come in at 57 percent in English and 64 percent in math attaining “proficient” and “advanced” levels.
Extra help is available to students in the district who need to progress academically. Five years ago, district officials directed each grade level to use the same textbooks for each subject. Also, school administrators aligned the curriculum so students from all grade levels are taught the same lessons. The district also implemented “benchmark testing” a few times a year to monitor student progress academically.
Part of the school day includes rotation classes where local scholars get the intervention they need in their weaker subjects.
“We are finding creative ways to offer our students the support and the intervention they need,” Miranda said.
Some student results in secondary testing include scores in algebra coming in at 55 percent of seventh-graders scoring in “proficient” and “advanced’ levels and 20 percent of eighth-graders in those top levels, compared to 94 percent and 58 percent respectively the year before.
“We had double the number of seventh-grade students take the algebra test and about 100 more eighth-graders taking the algebra test than in 2012 instead of the general math test and this impacted the results,” Miranda said last week. “We have lost ground in this area due to not having comparable data from the year before.”
Miranda added that eighth-grade geometry students made an 8-point jump from the previous year — from 30 percent to 38 percent of students testing in the “proficient” and “advanced” categories.
This year’s data also shows that 83 percent of Patterson High freshmen that took the biology tests scored “proficient” or “advanced” on the test.
Meanwhile, testing changes are coming. PJUSD began laying the groundwork for the implementation of the new Common Core — a set of standards that aims to give students deeper levels of understanding to subject matter— with professional developments district wide and agreed upon Common Core Instructional Expectations over the 2012-2013 school year.
PJUSD and school districts nationwide are working on developing a set of standards that are set to into place in the 2014- 2015 school year and aims to be fully operational in the spring of 2015.
Common Core standards aim is not only to give students the deeper levels of understanding of subject matter, but also to bring in a greater focus for integrating such subjects as English and History into a school report, all the while preparing students for college and careers.
Common Core Tests, called Smarter Balanced Assessment Tests, will begin in the 2014-2015 school year and replace the CST tests.
“This helped focus our teachers on great educational practices that need to continue and those that need to be developed,” Miranda said. “The direction given to our teaching staff was to build upon the current standards as we transition to Common Core —with Common Core, our students are going to be asked to demonstrate their proficiency with a very different type of assessment.”
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