Just over half of California students failed to meet English standards based on spring 2017 standardized test results released Wednesday, a performance that remained essentially flat compared to the previous year.
Students performed even worse on math tests, with nearly two-thirds falling short, according to the California Department of Education.
It marked the third year that California students took a new, computer-based test that adheres to Common Core State Standards, a national education approach intended to promote critical-thinking and problem-solving skills over memorization. Students in 2016 saw incremental gains before results flattened this year.
“I’m pleased we retained our gains, but we have much work to do,” said Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction. “We need to work diligently to narrow achievement gaps and make sure students continue to make progress.”
He noted that the computer-assisted tests are more rigorous than the previous paper-and-pencil tests.
About 49 percent of students statewide met or exceeded English standards on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress in 2017, which is administered to public school students at certain grade levels each year. That’s the same proportion that met English standards in 2016.
The proportion of students meeting math standards statewide also held steady at roughly 37 percent.
In the four-county Sacramento region, 50 percent of students met English standards and 40 percent met math standards in 2017. Those figures were unchanged from the prior year.
Disparities between the region’s highest- and lowest-scoring schools persisted, with test scores correlating closely with poverty. Schools with many children from poor families tend to have lower test scores than schools with few economically disadvantaged children.
- More than 85 percent of students at Granite Bay High, Folsom High, Rocklin High, Vista Del Lago High in Folsom and Phoebe Hearst Elementary in Sacramento met English standards.
- Russell Ranch Elementary in Folsom, Sandra J. Gallardo Elementary in Folsom and Arnold Adreani Elementary in Elk Grove all had more than 80 percent of students meet math standards.
On the other end of the test spectrum:
- Just 1.5 percent of students at Encina Preparatory High in Arden Arcade and 2.8 percent of students at the Sacramento Academic and Vocational Academy met math standards in 2017.
- Only 9 percent of Encina students and 14 percent of students at Ethel l. Baker Elementary in Sacramento met English standards in 2017.
“We can’t call ourselves a progressive state and leave low-income students and students of color behind,” said Ryan Smith, executive director of The Education-Trust West, a research and advocacy organization.
Folsom Cordova Unified saw the largest improvement in English and math scores among large local districts, with a 2 percentage point increase in both. About 61 percent of Folsom Cordova Unified math students met English standards in 2017, up from 59 percent in 2016. About 52 percent of students met math standards, up from 50 percent in 2016.
Dry Creek Joint Elementary School District saw the largest English declines among large local districts, with 52 percent of its students meeting English standards in 2017, compared to 57 percent the previous year. Natomas Unified saw the largest math declines, with the proportion of students meeting math standards falling from 35 percent to 33 percent.
“We certainly are looking at these results and analyzing all the scores, analyzing instructional practices and what support systems we have,” said Sara Wegner, assistant superintendent of educational services for Dry Creek Joint Elementary.
Now that the results are final, the district will take a closer look at the data, analyzing it by grade levels and subgroups, she said.
Overall, 3.2 million students took California state standardized tests this year. The Smarter Balanced assessments in math and English language arts are taken by students in third through eighth grades and 11th grade. One percent of the state’s public schoolchildren did not take the test because of a parental exemption.
Although school districts received their scores in May, the public release was postponed until Wednesday to verify results with school districts, according to a press release from the CDE. The delay was prompted by discrepancies in the scores of students from some schools in San Diego, according to the state Department of Education. Families received the test scores over the summer.
Locally, Dry Creek Joint Elementary School District’s initial scores showed results for 11th-graders. The school has seven elementary schools and two middle schools, but no high schools.
Scores from state standardized tests are just one of the measures that will be used in a new school accountability dashboard that replaces the single Academic Performance Index score that families and educators relied upon in previous years.
The dashboard, which will launch in early December, also will rate schools on the progress of English learners, high school graduation rates, college and career readiness, chronic absenteeism and, initially, suspension rates. School districts also will rely on surveys and other data to measure campuses for school climate, parent engagement, implementation of state academic standards, services for expelled students, and adequate instruction and facilities.