Schools explain STAR scores
Published: Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 2:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 2:43 p.m.
Even as California schools begin the transition to a new testing system, local school officials say results from the current state Standardized Testing and Reporting exams can still serve as a barometer of how well their curriculum and programs are working.
“They give us a historic perspective of how well we’ve done and how well we’ve improved over the last five years. We can see where we’re outstanding and where we are challenged,” said Jane Escobedo, director of educational services for the Petaluma School District.
Petaluma area schools showed improvement in most areas, according to STAR test results for 2011 released recently by the California Department of Education.
Students are tested in four categories and given grades of advanced, proficient, basic, below basic and far below basic. The goal of the federal No Child Left Behind Law is to have all students in all subgroups reach proficiency by 2014 — an impossible goal, according to many educators.
By those standards, Petaluma-area schools, like others in Sonoma County and throughout the state, still have a way to go, with local schools generally having between 55 and 70 percent proficient or advanced.
While local administrators evaluate the results of the STAR tests, administered last spring, they are also preparing to shift to Common Core Standards, a program will bring uniformity to tests across the country.
Escobedo said Common Core Standards, to go into effect in 2015, are modeled after California and Massachusetts tests that are more demanding than tests given in most other states.
“The STAR tests are mostly multiple choice,” Escobedo noted. “When Common Core Standards come in, it will be a different kind of test, with more performance tasks. It will more analytical.”
Meanwhile, school districts continue to learn from the STAR results.
One encouraging area for Petaluma City Schools District was performance of English as a second language students who have been reclassified from English learners to English proficient.
In 2010-2011, 411 students were reclassified in the district; last year 669 were. Escobedo said the reclassified students had a whopping 33 percent gain in the 2011 STAR results.
“That’s a real bright spot,” she said.
Escobedo pointed out that an area of concern is the low 27 percent of ninth grade students who tested advanced or proficient in algebra.
Petaluma students generally take algebra in the eighth grade, and 75 percent of those students tested advanced or proficient. However, some take the subject in the ninth grade and it is those who concern the district.
“We are setting a new goal of having all students take and pass algebra with a grade of B or better by the ninth grade,” she said.
More than 50 percent of Petaluma City Schools elementary school students in all grade levels tested advanced or proficient in English/language arts and mathematics.
Just a little over half — 52 percent — of the third graders ranked advanced or proficient, with only 20 percent ranking advanced. Seventy-five percent of the fifth graders and 68 percent of the sixth graders ranked advanced or proficient.
Among the district’s secondary students, more than 60 percent of the students ranked advanced or proficient in English/language arts.
Just 53 percent of second graders and only 48 percent of the third graders in the Old Adobe Union District were rated advanced or proficient in English/language arts, but the percentage jumped to 73 percent for grades four and five and 69 percent for the sixth grade. Mathematics rankings were better than 60 percent for grades two through 4, but only 58 percent for fifth graders and 49 percent for sixth graders.
Miwok Valley fifth graders increased from 31 percent to 65 percent in math and from 48 percent to 79 percent in English/language arts making the Old Adobe District school one of the most improved schools in the county.
For complete STAR results by school district and individual school, visit the web site at: http://star.cde.ca.gov/star2012/SearchPanel.aspx
(Contact John Jackson at johnie.jackson@argus courier.com)
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