The California Department of Education released the 2012 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) results on Friday -- and Santa Monica and Malibu schools are celebrating.
In particular, high school mathematics students posted a five-point gain in proficiency rates from 2011 to 2012.
Both elementary and middle school performance in mathematics remained flat for 2012, with 81 percent of elementary students scoring proficient or advanced and 65 percent of middle school students reaching or exceeding proficiency.
High school students, however, posted a five-point gain to reach 40 percent proficiency.
Statewide, only 29 percent of high school students scored proficient or advanced in mathematics.
Rosa Serratore, the district’s Math Coordinator, said its secondary math teachers had been working hard on retooling the math curriculum and improving instructional practice.
"We still have a long way to go, but feel confident we are on the right track to ensure that SMMUSD students are successful in rigorous and engaging mathematics," Serratore said.
STAR reports reflect student academic achievement on the California Standards Test (CST) in English language arts (ELA), math, science, and history.
Student test scores fall into one of five levels: Far Below Basic, Below Basic, Basic, Proficient or Advanced.
The 2012 results for Santa Monica-Malibu paint a picture of continued, steady gains in the percentage of students who score at the proficient or advanced levels on the CST.
SMMUSD proficiency rates increased by one or two percentage points in each subject area except for history, which experienced a one-point drop in 2012 after four years of significant increases.
SMMUSD Superintendent Sandra Lyon said these relatively small gains over the prior year are part of a longitudinal pattern of steady and continuous improvement.
"Our multi-year, upward trend reflects the high caliber of our classroom teachers and their on-going efforts to improve instructional practice," Lyon said. "I agree with the statements made by State Superintendent Torlakson that these increases are even more laudable given the deep cuts to education spending across the state. Our work continues as we implement our strategic plan to address the achievement gap for students of color, economically disadvantaged students, English learners and students with disabilities.”
In English language arts, African American and Latino students have gained 24 and 26 percentage points respectively since 2002, compared to gains of 15 points for white students during the same time period.
English learners gained 24 percentage points and economically disadvantaged students gained 28 percentage points since 2002.
Students with disabilities have made gains of 16 points over this time period.
In Math, gains for African American students lag behind, while growth Latino students and English learners outpace the growth made for the district as a whole.
Dr. Maureen Bradford, Director of Assessment, Research and Evaluation, cautioned that the data for students with disabilities is not yet complete.
"About 24 percent of students in this group take the California Modified Assessment (CMA) rather than the CST." Bradford said. "Another five percent take the California Alternate Performance Assessment (CAPA). When the results from these assessments are rolled into the CST results, we will see some increases in proficiency rates for students with disabilities."
Director of Curriculum and Instruction Peggy Harris was particularly pleased with the fourth and seventh grade CST writing scores.
"SMMUSD's writing scores have continuously improved over the last six years, culminating in 2012 with nine out of ten students scoring at the highest two levels of the state scoring rubric," Harris said. "This remarkable achievement is the result of the outstanding, research-based instruction and support that teachers provide."
At John Muir Elementary the English language arts achievement soared in all grade levels, increasing by nine-percentage points overall.
Muir principal Tristan Komlos, commented he was pleased.
"The scores reflect our commitment and focus on literacy at John Muir," Komlos said. "Through professional development and collaboration, teachers have succeeded in helping each and every student improve their reading skills."
Point Dume Marine Science School posted an eight-point gain in CST science proficiency, reaching an astronomical 96 percent proficient or advanced.
"We were really excited and proud to see that big bump in scores," said principal, Rebecca Johnson. "Our teachers' depth of knowledge in science and their commitment to sharing their passion for the subject with our students is paying off big time."
Santa Monica High School's five-point increase in math achievement was a source of pride for principal Laurel Fretz and math department chair Marae Cruce, who will be further analyzing the data with their teachers in the coming weeks.
"These increases truly reflect the commitment of our teachers who have been honing their instructional practices to make sure every student is engaged in learning," Fretz said.
New Malibu High principal Jerry Block said h was proud of its six-point gain in mathematics.
"In speaking with the math department and our leadership team, it's clear that the teachers have worked hard to focus on key mathematics standards, going deeper to ensure students understand those critical math concepts," Block said. "In addition, we want to congratulate Malibu High students who have committed to doing their best on these exams."
The California Department of Education will incorporate the results from the CST, CAPA and CMA, as well as the California High School Exit Exam, into two important accountability measures.
The Academic Performance Index (API) and the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) reports are due to be released in early October.
The accountability reports, along with Friday’s release of CST results will assist school principals, leadership teams, and school site councils as they develop new goals and action plans for the current school year.
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