No significant movement in local students' test scores | October 23, 2019 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

Almanac

Schools - October 23, 2019

No significant movement in local students' test scores

Concerns growing about achievement gaps in the county

by Angela Swartz

San Mateo County students' standardized test scores remained stagnant during the 2018-19 testing period, but they still outperformed students statewide, according to California Department of Education data released last week.

Countywide, 61.3% of students met or exceeded English language arts standards, while 53.4% met or exceeded math standards. The numbers are within half a percentage point of last year's results.

Schools in the The Almanac's coverage area maintained consistent test scores from the previous year's testing period.

In the Sequoia Union High School District, 70% of students met or exceeded English language arts standards, about a 7% increase from the 2017-18 testing period. Around 52% of students met or exceeded math standards, about a 4% increase.

In the Las Lomitas district, about 86% of students met or exceeded English standards, the same as during the 2017-18 testing period. For math scores, 82% met or exceeded math standards, which is about the same as 2017-18. There were 1,202 students in the district as of Sept. 16.

"We are pleased to see that our students continue to do well on this state summative assessment," said Superintendent Beth Polito in an email. "This tool is well used to assess the quality of the overall LLESD (Las Lomitas Elementary School District) program. We use local formative assessments in Reading, Writing and Math to inform daily instruction. We maintained the growth from the past few years on both ELA (English language arts) and Math." She noted that the district's socio-economically disadvantaged students improved their scores in both English language arts and math compared to 2017-18.

In the Menlo Park City School District, students performed similarly to how they did in 2017-18. About 84% met or exceeded English standards, about the same as during the 2017-18 testing period. About 83% met or exceeded math standards, a 2% increase over 2017-18. There are 2,932 students enrolled in the district this school year.

"Menlo Park City School District continues to show progress in academic achievement of our significant subgroups, which is a high priority of ours," said Superintendent Erik Burmeister in a prepared statement. "We are committed to addressing the needs of students from populations that are historically underachieving, especially our students from low income households. Schools must be joined by the private sector; local, state and federal government; and the nonprofit world to address the far reaching impacts of economic inequality; our children are not immune. We believe we can defy the most powerful indicator of student achievement — family income — but it takes time, training, and resources with ongoing focus to do so."

In the Portola Valley School District, 87% of students met or exceeded English standards, a jump of 3% compared with 2017-18. About 83% of students met or exceeded math standards, a decrease of about 2%. There were 548 students enrolled in the district this school year, as of Sept. 16.

"Our students' academic performance is truly outstanding," said Superintendent Roberta Zarea in a prepared statement. "Regarding the slight variance in the district's Mathematics scores between this year and last, we are wondering why; and our instructional staff is already disaggregating and studying the data by specific subject matter strands within standards as well as by individual students, groups and grade levels to find answers, and plan accordingly."

In the Woodside Elementary School District, 87% of students met or exceeded English standards, up about 3% from the 2017-18 school year. About 85% met or exceeded math standards, a nearly 1% increase. There were 376 students enrolled in the district this school year as of Sept. 19.

"The Smarter Balanced assessments are only one indicator of student progress," said Superintendent Steve Frank in an email. "Woodside School students performed very well on the Smarter Balanced assessments, with the vast majority of students meeting and exceeding grade level standards. The Smarter Balanced data will be used by the staff as a tool to help individual students who may need more targeted instruction."

Achievement gap concerns

There are concerns that the gaps in scores between different student groups in the county are wider than the state averages, according to an Oct. 10 San Mateo County Office of Education press release. Statewide, the gap in scores between students who are considered economically disadvantaged and all other students is 12% for both English language arts and math standards. In San Mateo County, economically disadvantaged students' scores are 25% lower on English language arts tests and 27% lower on math tests compared with all other students.

"We celebrate and seek to learn from the districts that are making progress; however, the persistent gaps are troubling," said San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools Nancy Magee in a prepared statement. "It's clear we have to deepen our commitment to systemic change and sharpen our efforts to serve each and every student. The California Dashboard provides us with more readily accessible data than ever before; now we have to apply that information to improve instructional practices that can support every child's learning."

Some districts in the county made progress in closing gaps. Brisbane, Portola Valley, Millbrae, and Hillsborough school districts saw significant gains for students with disabilities, and English language learners and economically disadvantaged students in the Belmont-Redwood Shores and La Honda-Pescadero Unified districts made noticeable progress in mathematics, according to the Office of Education.

"PVSD (Portola Valley School District) students with disabilities made significant gains in both ELA (English language arts) and Mathematics," said Zarea.

Statewide, 51% of students met or exceeded English standards, a 1% increase from the 2017-18 testing period. Only 39.7% of students met or exceeded math standards, which was about a 1% increase.

The most widely used standardized tests statewide are the Smarter Balanced Assessments. They are administered to students in grades three through eight and in 11th grade. Students took the tests in spring 2019.

The state's full test results can be found at tinyurl.com/2019testscores.

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