New elementary and high school test results released

The results of the first ever California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) tests were released last week by the California Department of Education. Often referred to as the Smarter Balanced tests using Common Core standards for English language arts/literacy, and math, the tests, administered electronically, were given to 3.2 million third through eighth-graders, and juniors in high school last spring.

State Superintendent Tom Torlakson unveiled the results of new online assessments to gauge student progress in learning new, more rigorous academic standards designed to prepare them for college and careers in the 21st century.

Because 2015 is the first year of the new tests and because they are substantially different from their predecessors, Torlakson said the results will serve as a baseline from which to measure future progress and should not be compared to results from the state’s previous assessments, the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program.

CAASPP includes a number of assessments, but the most widely given are the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments, which evaluate student progress on the California standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy, often referred to as the Common Core.

“The results show our starting point as a state, a window into where California students are in meeting tougher academic standards that emphasize critical thinking, problem solving, and analytical writing,” Torlakson said in a prepared statement. “California’s new standards and tests are challenging for schools to teach and for students to learn, so I am encouraged that many students are at or near achievement standards. However, just as we expected, many students need to make more progress. Our job is to support students, teachers, and schools as they do.”

The CAASPP tests are conducted in a problem-solving method, contrasting STAR which was a multiple-choice, paper-based test in which students, for the most part, filled in bubbles on paper and could more easily guess correct answers.

On CAASPP, students’ scores fall into one of four achievement levels: standard exceeded, standard met, standard nearly met, and standard not met.

Statewide in all grades, 44% of students met or exceeded the English language arts/literacy standard, and 33% met or exceeded the mathematics standard.

For English language arts/literacy statewide in all grades: 44% exceeded or met the standard, and 56% nearly met or did not meet the standard.

For mathematics statewide in all grades: 33% exceeded or met standard, and 67% nearly met or did not meet standard.

Mountain Area schools

Results for Mountain Area schools, as a whole, trail statewide averages 3% in each category, with 41% of students at eight facilities exceeding or meeting English standards and 30% at or above state levels in mathematics.

Yosemite High School posted the best results in English, with 63% of its students exceeding or meeting the standard, ahead of high school students statewide by 7%. In math, Yosemite High had 25% exceeding or meeting the standard, 4% below the state average for high schools.

Minarets High School, perhaps surprisingly, had just 34% of its students exceeding or meeting the standard in English (22% below state high school average), and only 8% exceeding or meeting the math standard (21% below the state high school average).

In English, Rivergold Elementary School has the highest rank in English amongst other Mountain Area elementary schools, with 46% exceeding or meeting the standard.

In mathematics, Wasuma Elementary bested other area elementary schools with 40% of its students exceeding or meeting the state standards. Next was Rivergold, at 39%.

Even though it was the first year of a new test, Yosemite Union School District Superintendent James Sargent said the YHS administrators and staff were glad to see the overall district scores met or exceeded the state averages.

“We are looking forward to using the results to do what they were designed to do - help us continue to improve instruction in all our classes,” Sargent said. “We also believe our commitment to a broad, rigorous, and ambitious curriculum that includes challenging courses in all the core areas, in the arts and music programs, and in career and technical education programs goes hand in hand with academic achievement, and it’s our goal that excellent programs will produce excellent results on a variety of measures.”

Chawankee Unified School District Superintendent Darrn Sylvia said that overall, the test results were not what the district was anticipating this year, referring to Minarets High and Minarets Charter High schools.

“We have some areas we will address and give greater attention too.” Sylvia said. “As these results are a baseline we will focus on those areas of need and have a corrective plan to move forward. In comparison, our K-8 results were on par with state average. Our 11th grade results were hindered due to our testing schedule. In addition, we will have a much stronger focus on informing our parents, students, and staff of our testing options ... as well as these results will be used to inform our instructional practices.”

Bass Lake Joint Union Elementary School district Superintendent Glenn Reid expected the scores would not be at the level that scores have been in the past.

“Do not forget that the tests are assessing new standards that are more intellectually challenging than previous standards,” Reid said. “Overall, our district compares favorably with surrounding districts, Madera County, and state achievement levels.”

Reid has high praise for district teachers for their exemplary efforts to provide engaging and effective instruction for students.

“Without their efforts to work with pupils in helping them achieve these challenging new standards ... and developing new instructional skills, our students could not succeed,” Reid said.

Reid pointed out that the test results are just one measure of success.

“The results from the tests will be used to get better at what we do ... and we need to get better and what we do,” Reid said. “All of our students deserve the very best that we can provide, and as a district, we accept the challenge of preparing our students to be successful on these tests.”

The baseline scores reflect, in part, the rigor of the state’s new academic standards, Torlakson said. CAASPP focuses on assessing crucial abilities, such as analyzing problems, thinking independently, and writing clearly with evidence. Those skills take time and effort to master but are essential to succeed in today'’ world.

“Assessments are like satellite photos - they are snapshots taken at one moment in time,” Torlakson said. “There are many positive changes underway in California's schools, and I expect CAASPP scores to rise in coming years as students and teachers get more support and more experience with these new standards and assessments.”

Torlakson said results also show that teachers, schools, and districts need more time, training, and resources to improve student outcomes overall and to meet the high standards California has set, Torlakson said.

For complete test results for Mountain Area, Madera County, and state-wide schools, google caaspp test results. CAASPP Results